January 10, 2021 8:29 AM
LETTER FROM PALM BEACH FIRE-RESCUE CHIEF, DARREL DONATTO
Dear Palm Beach Residents,
The past nine months have been unprecedented times for all of us. The SARS-CoV-2 virus and the COVID-19 disease that it produces have been both debilitating and deadly to many people, including those right here in our community. I had COVID back in September and spent some time in the hospital because of it.
The availability of a vaccine is excellent news for everyone. The vaccine has been developed faster than ever before and is being distributed as quickly as production allows.
In 2009, Palm Beach Fire Rescue developed and executed a plan to vaccinate our community for the Swine Flu through what is known as a Closed POD or point of distribution. Those plans were incredibly successful and resulted in us being prepared to do the same for COVID-19. We began our planning to administer the COVID-19 vaccine back in April, anticipating a vaccine becoming available at the end of January or beginning of February. On December 30, 2020, we contacted the Department of Health, and to our delight, we were able to secure 1,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to be administered through our Closed POD.
Vaccinating our community for COVID-19 is not something we had to do, but rather, something we wanted to do, something that we felt was the right thing to do for our community. From the moment we received those doses, we knew that some people in our community were going to be upset, but we hoped and prayed for everyone’s understanding. About 5,000 people in Palm Beach are 65 years of age or older, and we only had 1,000 doses. We wanted to do for one what we could not do for all. So, despite knowing there would be some disappointed people, we executed our Closed POD plan.
We studied the way others across the country were doing what we wanted to and quickly realized that the most effective and most efficient systems used an online appointment system. We chose a system that could handle a large volume of traffic in a very short period of time, and that was certified as HIPPA compliant to protect the privacy of those using the system. While not perfect, it was the best solution to accomplish our goal of vaccinating as many people as we could as fast as we could. It has worked perfectly, despite some feeling otherwise because they did not get an appointment.
The community should know, the terrific men and women of Palm Beach Fire Rescue have stepped up in a big way to vaccinate our community. I am so proud of them and the work they are doing. We have received many compliments on how kind and caring our firefighters are, how efficient our system is, and how much what Fire Rescue is doing is appreciated. However, we have also received a few complaints because people were unable to get appointments. I wish that we had enough vaccines for everyone today, but we do not. That said, I am thankful for the vaccines we have been able to administer.
We are working tirelessly to bring more vaccines to all of Palm Beach County, vaccinate more residents of our community, and help other Fire-Rescue departments do the same thing we are doing in their communities.
There will be more vaccines available in the days to come. Everyone who wants one will eventually have access to a COVID-19 vaccine. Please be as patient as possible. Please continue to practice social distancing and wear a face mask. And, please know that the men and women of Palm Beach Fire Rescue care about you and will do everything we can to help you as fast as they can.
Darrel Donatto, Fire-Rescue Chief
Town of Palm Beach Fire Rescue