The state of Florida has opened a new walk-up COVID-19 vaccination site in Overtown, a no-appointment-necessary option that leaders hope will expand access to residents in one of Miami’s oldest Black neighborhoods.
The vaccination site at 1551 NW First Ave. is now open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily for those eligible for COVID vaccines under state regulations, including Florida residents 65 and older and healthcare workers. Seniors must bring ID to verify their age, and healthcare workers must bring their professional license.
Beginning Wednesday, school employees, police officers and fire rescue workers who are 50 and older can begin receiving vaccines. Police and fire rescue personnel must bring their badge or department ID. School employees must bring their work-issued identification.
The site is being managed by a collaboration between the state, the Overtown Youth Center, the city of Miami and disaster management firms IEM and AshBritt. Gov. Ron DeSantis first announced the plan to open a site in Overtown last week. City and community leaders, including former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning, celebrated the opening of the site Tuesday at a press conference.
Experts have said that the best way to promote vaccinations among communities of color, particularly Black communities where there may be mistrust of the healthcare systems, is to open walk-up sites inside minority neighborhoods.
“I’m not sure if the most effective way is doing it by appointments,” Jackson Health physician Inaki Bent told the Miami Herald earlier this year. “We may just have to do it like how they’re testing folks at [Hard Rock] Stadium where you just get in line and then you just get vaccinated.”
Mourning echoed the sentiment as he thanked the state and local agencies running the operation.
“It is imperative that we continue to break down barriers by creating accessibility and closing health gaps,” Mourning said. “This site is integral because it is located in the heart of a historically Black community, and we all know the impact of COVID-19 globally, and how it has been most devastating to communities of color.”
Officials said they have the capacity to do around 200 vaccinations a day. Local leaders hope neighbors will walk over to take advantage.
“I’m here to encourage the African-American community, in particular our people in communities of great faith, to protect yourselves and get vaccinated,” said Kenneth L. Washington, the pastor at Greater Israel Bethel Primitive Baptist Church in Overtown.
Washington and other local leaders encouraged residents, particularly Miami’s Black communities, to get vaccinated. Mayor Francis Suarez noted disparities in vaccination rates between white and Black neighborhoods. The mayor said he recorded a robocall that will go out to Overtown residents this week.
The Herald has reported on lagging vaccination rates in Miami-Dade County’s Black communities, particularly among seniors. The county’s population is 17% Black, but only 7.6% of residents who’ve received either one or both doses are Black, according to the state’s data as of Tuesday.
“That is something that is unacceptable to all of us here in the city,” Suarez said.
Dr. Rashid Chotani, chief medical director at IEM, said the Overtown site is administering the Moderna vaccine that requires two shots. He emphasized that the vaccines are free and being offered in a controlled environment.
“We’re doing it in a very safe and effective way,” Chotani said. “We are making sure that all infection control practices are observed.”
Herald staff writers C. Isaiah Smalls II and Bianca Padró Ocasio contributed to this report.