St. Petersburg Rep. Michele Rayner is leading an effort to bring a COVID-19 vaccination site to Manatee County Sunday in a move to reach Black communities struggling to obtain vaccines.
The vaccine drive will administer 500 vaccinations to seniors and health care workers. The vaccines were available to the first 500 people who registered, regardless of residency in the county.
The second dose of vaccines will take place at the same location.
Rayner is working with the Florida Division of Emergency Management, Sen. Jim Boyd, Rep. Will Robinson and Rep. Tommy Gregory on the drive. Manatee County Commissioner Reggie Bellamy and Pastor J. H. Smalley of First Community Church are also involved in planning the event.
The goal of the Manatee County drive is to target distribution to populations that do not have easy access to vaccines.
Recently, the Associated Press reported on the disparities across Florida in vaccine distribution among Black communities. Public outcry led the state to set up a vaccine station in Belle Glade to serve it and its neighboring towns of Pahokee and South Bay. The station will get 5,000 doses — that’s about how many people 65 and older live in the area.
In Manatee County, of the 21,773 people who received at least the first dose of the vaccine, only 432 were Black, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. According to the report, fewer than 4.8% of Black residents in Florida, and 1.5% of Black residents in Sarasota and Manatee counties, have been vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“It is no secret the destruction that the COVID-19 virus is leaving in its wake,” Rayner said in a news release. “Our communities of color are disproportionately affected and it’s important, more than ever, we combat this deadly virus.”
The vaccine drive will take place at the First Community Church of Palmetto (1107 29th St. E) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.