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COVID-19 Vaccinations Begin In Florida's Broward County


The hope we all feel in 2021 hinges on one big thing, right? Vaccinations. Hundreds of millions of Americans will have to get vaccinated before things can return to a semblance of normal. But the rollout so far has been pretty chaotic and much slower than was hoped. In a moment, we'll hear why things have gone so badly and what can be done to speed things up. Right now, though, we're going to go to Florida's Broward County, where vaccinations are starting today. Veronica Zaragovia reports on health care from member station WLRN, and she joins us now live from where the vaccinations are being given. Good morning.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: Tell us where you are and what you're seeing.

ZARAGOVIA: Well, I'm near an entrance of a big park where cars are coming up and actually barely forming a line because the process is moving so quickly. At a distance, I can see a tent where the vaccinations are taking place, but I'm not allowed to get close to there. But I see a few people guiding the cars in, asking if they have an appointment or not, handing out paperwork in order to get the shot. And, you know, given how difficult it's been to get an appointment in South Florida, I was expecting a long line, but I got here at about 6:30 in the morning, and I saw some 10 cars. By 7, it was hard for me to talk to people because the line was moving so quickly. I just had to let them go by. Yeah, so - but I did talk to a few who were quite happy or relieved to be here, including Gladys George (ph), who came up from Miami. And here's what she told me.

GLADYS GEORGE: Oh, I'm excited. I don't know. I've been, like, making the sign of the cross, and like, OK, everything would turn out well. I'm optimistic.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I can only imagine how relieved and excited she and the others must be. But that's good news. I mean, the line is moving fast. But how does that fit into the broader picture of the rollout overall in Florida?

ZARAGOVIA: It actually contrasts very much because the rollout has been chaotic and disjointed and frustrating. State officials left it to hospitals and counties to choose their plan. We have 67 counties. In Fort Myers, which is not so far from here, they made it a first-come, first-serve vaccination. And so that led to people camping out overnight. People may have seen images of seniors waiting with foldout chairs. And in South Florida, people have been able to get appointments, but phone lines have been jammed. Websites have crashed. And so people just really didn't even know if they got an appointment because for here, actually, for the site where I'm standing at, they got this - the site said congratulations but nothing else. They didn't get a confirmation email. And the county has been communicating with people via Twitter to say, don't worry, you did get an appointment. But a lot of people 65 and older tell me they don't use Twitter, or they don't have Wi-Fi. So they - you know, they feel left in the dark.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And for people at the park today who got these appointments, did they tell you how that worked for them?

ZARAGOVIA: I spoke with Bill Langer (ph), who came to this park in a city called Davie from Cooper City, which is - it's less than half an hour drive from this park. He did tell me it took a long time for him and his wife to get through to the website in order to get this appointment, but they tried and tried and were lucky enough to get in. And he actually got one of the first appointments at 8 a.m. And so here's what Bill told me.

BILL LANGER: We're excited to get the process started. Now I want to see what's going to happen with shot number two. How are they going to handle that?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, so what is next, briefly, in the 10 seconds we have left, for the rollout in Florida?

ZARAGOVIA: Yeah, people are going to have to wait to find out about their booster shot. And in Miami-Dade County, the state's largest hospital system will launch a website for appointments starting this week. And the county is going to contact homebound seniors to bring vaccinations to them. Next will come Palm Beach County, but we - you know, people are being told to wait and be patient, and they're going to have to do a lot of word of mouth to find out what happens next.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Veronica Zaragovia of WLRN, talking to us from Broward County, Fla. Thank you so much.

ZARAGOVIA: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.