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City of Oakland Park Shows Exemplary Leadership in Vaccine Distribution

Since the COVID vaccine arrived in the United States, its distribution around the country, has been plagued with problems. Wilton Manors resident, Joseph Fernandez, shared his experience trying to get an appointment when Broward first launched its website to take appointments.

Trying to get the appointment on the Broward website was very touch and go. It was down most of the time. Only on a very early Sunday morning was I able to get on. I made the appointment for Tradewinds Park. The day before the appointment I received a text from The Broward Health Department telling me that the location of the appointment was changed to Central Broward Park. (More convenient to me). I arrived at the park 3 hours early after seeing all these nightmare scenarios on TV. Once the gates opened it was a smooth operation. It was well organized. From beginning to end only 1 hour 50 minutes".

Joseph Fernandez, Wilton Manors Resident

Oakland Park resident, Adrienne Amenta, accompanied a friend to take the vaccine and they waited in the line at Tradewinds for nearly four hours. Although Fernandez’s experience went better than expected he had every reason to be concerned. Fernandez was not the only that was concerned by what he saw on TV and around the County. Oakland Park City Manager, David Hebert, was too. But rather than stand by the wayside, he decided to take action and set up a point of distribution (POD) in the heart of Oakland Park that would focus on the most vulnerable segments of our population: Senior citizens. 

The City Manager Takes Charge

When Living In Oakland Park interviewed Hebert a few months ago, he shared with us that despite the fact that he knew he could make more money if went into private practice, he did not because he felt called to serve the public. He lived up to those words with the effort he put into making the Oakland Park POD a reality. 

We asked him to tell us how the idea came about. Hebert explains that Oakland Park had been working alongside the cities of Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach and Wilton Manors at the Holiday Park POD, when he realized that many seniors were not being reached either because they did not have computer access, mobility access, didn’t speak English or were economically disadvantaged. So Hebert made a decision to call Dr. Paula Thaqi, who is in charge of the vaccine distribution for the Department of Health here in Broward County. Hebert recounts:  

"I waited until 9am on Sunday to call Dr. Paula Thaqi ...and said 'Doctor I am David Hebert, I work for the Oakland Park, I am the City Manager and I need vaccines'. And I explained to her why I thought it was critical that we try to target that selected group of seniors. And she said 'Absolutely!'. Before the week was out we were open here at Collins serving our community".

David Hebert, Oakland Park City Manager

Oakland Park Begins Its Outreach

Mayor Jane Bolin, was frustrated about not being able to help residents gain access to the vaccine. She and other Mayors were informed, but there was not an action plan in place, Mayor Bolin explained. Mayor Bolin reached out to Hebert, and asked what she could do. Hebert did not have an immediate answer, but worked behind the scenes. Only after arranging to obtain the vaccines did he call Mayor Bolin to tell her that vaccines were on the way. Mayor Bolin was thrilled at the prospect of being able to provide the vaccine to seniors around the County. They immediately got to work to make the POD a reality.

Mayor Jane Bolin and City Manager David Hebert at Oakland Park's vaccine POD.

"This would not have happened without David Hebert's work. I was very frustrated... and I would call David and say 'What are we going to do about this?', and then David miraculously called me and said 'I got through to Dr. Thaqi... and we are going to get our first set of vaccines'."

City of Oakland Park Mayor, Jane Bolin

Oakland Park's Exemplary Effort

Oakland Park Begins Distribution

According to Mayor Bolin, by the time Hebert called her, he already had a plan for how to roll out the first vaccines. They were going to do it slowly, test the logistics and tweak it as necessary.

Mayor Bolin tell us that there were the obvious concerns if everything was going to work, but “it has worked every single time”, Bolin relates. “And I am super proud of this effort and I am very grateful to Mr. Hebert for making this happen“. 

The next step is to progressively scale up to serve an even greater number of people in need.

The people behind the success of the POD, Oakland Park Fire Rescue and City staff with Mayor Jane Bolin.

A Team Effort

 While the catalyst for this City based effort began with Hebert’s phone call to Thaqi, its rollout and success is due to the efforts of the City’s staff. Bruce Garrison, the City of Oakland Park’s Volunteer Manager, led the outreach to seniors. Oakland Park Fire Rescue Chief Krivjanik helped with the training of personnel to administer the vaccine. Chris Casale and Bridgette Pierce from the City’s Parks and Recreation Department were instrumental in identifying a location for distribution of the vaccine. Heidi Burnett and her staff have been coordinating all the calls coming in as well as the outreach calls. Shannon Vezina, the City’s new Public Information Officer, is putting together letters, flyers and other information for the public. And last but not least, Assistant City Manager, Jennifer Frastai, supported the effort behind the scenes alongside Hebert.

Oakland Park Fire Rescue Chief, Steve Krivjanik explains their role in the distribution and why Oakland Park’s POD is unique: 

An Example For Other Cities

Recipients of the vaccine have conveyed that the process was seamless and that everyone at the POD was very caring. Oakland Park, in fact, is the only City in Broward to have a city-run POD and offer residents such a high level of service. Their coordinated effort is exemplary and sets a high standard for other cities to emulate. 

What People Are Saying

“I feel like I just won the jackpot… it was a perfect experience“, Susie Nelson from Plantation tells Living In Oakland Park.

Jean Gambardella who lives in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea told us that “It was a fabulous experience, in and out very quick. They gave us all the information we needed and it didn’t hurt“.

An Oakland Park business owner came in for her vaccine appointment and shared her experience. “I am so impressed with everyone that was here today. It was more organized than I ever expected. And everybody was so kind and explained everything right down to the details. It was wonderful“.

Oakland Park resident, Michael Jacobsen, is high-risk category and had been unable to get the vaccine through the Cleveland Clinic. Jacobsen conveys his experience:

"With regard to the vaccine situation, I have been trying to get mine through the Cleveland Clinic, as that is where all my medical care is handled. No luck. Being over 65 and this cancer situation puts me in a higher risk category. The politicizing of Operation Warp Speed (ha!) is unbelievable. For a nationally-recognized healthcare facility to not get supplies, yet Publix can only reinforces how messed up things really are. When we got notified about the OP program to help residents like me, I called this AM. Efficient, helpful... It had all the fingerprints of David Hebert on it. Yet again, caring for the residents".

Michael Jacobsen, Oakland Park Resident

Nurse Debbie Weisz said that “It was great, very organized, no stress. I am a nurse, and I could see everything was very procedural, they did everything right, and gave good shots too“.

Oakland Park resident, Debbie Weisz, gives the vaccine distribution effort a thumbs up.

How To Get An Appointment

Call the City of Oakland Park at 954-630-4335 

The City of Oakland Park is operating a closed POD vaccine site for persons who are 65 years and older and do not have access to transportation, internet, or other potential challenges that prohibit them from accessing the vaccine under current circumstances.  

The City is scheduling all appointments and operating the site. Appointments are being made directly by City staff to ensure we are reaching the intended target community. Please prioritize these seniors when accepting our invitation. Appointments are limited.  

All appropriate guidelines and procedures as directed by the DOH are being followed. Records are being maintained and appointments for second shots are being scheduled at the same location.

Be a part of Oakland Park online!


*LivingInOaklandPark.com is an independent publication, not affiliated with the City of Oakland Park.

Desiree Avila

EDITOR, PUBLISHER, WRITER, PHOTOGRAPHER, REALTOR®

Désirée Ávila has called Oakland Park her home for over 33 years. In addition to publishing LivingInOaklandPark.com, Désirée has been featured in print publications, locally and abroad. Désirée was an award winning teacher for 10 years and has a doctoral level education in Educational Technology. She is currently a licensed Florida Realtor® and is committed to a high-level of professionalism.

Désirée consistently professionally develops herself and has earned several different professional designations and certifications in real estate including the PSA, e-Pro, AHWD, SRS, ABR, and SFR. She was also awarded the C2EX, Commitment to Excellence award by the National Association for Realtors (NAR). This award is given to Realtors® that distinguish themselves for their commitment to excellence in the real estate industry.

She is esteemed by her real estate colleagues and has consistently received 5 star reviews from her clients. Her philosophy about real estate is that being a Realtor® is a way of teaching and helping people, and in the process a real estate transaction may occur, that is to say her foremost priority is and has always been about helping others.

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