MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center was the first synagogue in the state, possibly in the country, to be an interfaith vaccination site for seniors.
“I thought it was wonderful. It made me feel like it was a miracle,” said Elizabeth Judy Baldacci.READ MORE: Johnson & Johnson Single-Shot COVID-19 Vaccine Joining In The Fight Against Global Pandemic
Hundreds of seniors of all faiths lined up for their first dose.
“We felt that it was important to demonstrate, once again, our shared common humanity, to break down the wall that seems to divide us,” said Rabbi Jonathan Berkun said.
The faith leaders stressed that religion does not matter when it comes to protecting the elderly and getting them vaccinated.
“We have the feeling that we are just one human being, especially when we’re facing a challenge like this, threatening our life,” said Imam Abdul Hamid Samra with the Islamic Center of Greater Miami,
Pastor Michael Anderson, with New Jerusalem Baptist Church, came up with his own word to describe this – “humaning.”
“Humaning is just simply, shouldn’t be this hard to be human. Beating this, this is not political. Beating this is no bigger than a human making sure all other humans are okay,” he said.
Governor Ron DeSantis stopped by the center on Thursday where he also announced the launch of a new project.
“I just returned from a condo complex in Aventura because we did the inaugural homebound seniors vaccination pilot project that launched today. What we are doing is dedicating 1,500 doses a week to be able to bring COVID-19 vaccines to seniors who may be homebound or may have difficulty traveling,” he said.
The governor said the state has been trying to get the vaccine out in a way that is convenient for those who want a vaccination. He acknowledged that not everyone can go to a drive-thru site or a Publix pharmacy.READ MORE: South Florida House Republicans Vote Against President Biden's $1.9 Trillion Pandemic Relief Package
“We thought it was important to fill a niche. Now some hospitals have been doing this and some of the county health departments have been, so this is another effort in that direction to make sure that folks aren’t left behind,” said DeSantis.
The governor said the first 750 doses will be brought to Holocaust survivors. He said they are working with Jewish family services organizations in South Florida and the Holocaust Documentation Center in Hollywood to identify people who are eligible.
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DeSantis said so far they have done 25 vaccine events in places of worship throughout the state where more than 13,000 people have been vaccinated. He the event Thursday at the center is the first to be interfaith.
“You have folks from all walks of life, from all different faiths, coming together. We have 176 members of this synagogue, we have 175 members of the Islamic Center of Greater Miami, and we have 175 members of Trinity Church all coming together to provide vaccines for seniors. I want to thank all of the religious leaders for working together and putting our seniors first,” he said. “I think it’s going to make an incredible difference.”
The governor said they will continue to find ways to get to seniors in underserved communities and will continue to put seniors first.
“Of all the vaccines distributed in Florida, close to 75 percent of the shots have gone to senior citizens. That is the right priority,” said DeSantis.
Florida has about 4.5 million seniors. The governor said about 30 percent of all seniors in the state, or more than 1.3 million, have received at least one shot.
As for the state receiving additional vaccines, DeSantis said he thinks that there will be another modest increase in first doses next week. He added that he thinks the federal pharmacy program will soon be activated.
“We have been waiting for this for a number of weeks. The federal pharmacy program will take doses, not involving the state allocation, and send them directly to specified pharmacies. In Florida, we’re looking at Walmart, we’re looking at Winn Dixie, and we’re looking at Publix as three that can be able to handle that,” he said.MORE NEWS: Trump A Dominant Force At Conservative Conference In Orlando
DeSantis said he hopes to make announcements about that development in the near future. He added that they’re looking at an expansion of the Hard Rock Stadium vaccination site and will have an announcement on that as well.