Florida pastor uses grocery stores to sign seniors up for vaccine

Thousands of seniors are getting vaccinated at places of worship across Florida, but one local church decided not to book vaccine appointments online or by phone.

Instead, it decided to use a pen and paper at the grocery store.

Isabel Placido is one of the 500 seniors who got the COVID-19 vaccine at the Episcopal Church of Jesus of Nazareth on Saturday. She booked her appointment on a trip to get groceries. 

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"I tried. I don’t even know how many times online and I couldn’t get it. I’m 73 years old and I couldn’t get it, so it was very easy. It was nice," Placido said. "I signed in the supermarket, Bravo, and I’m here. I got it!"

The church teamed up with the state to host the COVID-19 vaccine event on Saturday.

Father Jose Rodriguez took a grassroots approach to make vaccine appointments for seniors. Instead of online appointments, he and his church staff went to Bravo and Sedano's supermarkets to find seniors who wanted the vaccine.

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"We took a risk at doing this event differently than they’re mostly done. We decided to forgo online sign-ups, telephone sign-ups, and we went with clipboards into the community," Father Rodriguez said. "The same way we go out and register people to vote, the same way we go out and register people for the census. We went out to the supermarkets; we met people where they are likely to be found and we registered them to receive the vaccine."

Many seniors who had issues making appointments say they feel thankful. 
"I tried to do it for him, a lot of times on the internet and it never worked. And when Publix opened or something, they were all full, full, full," Evelyn Rivera Deleon said. 

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"A lot of these individuals had written off the idea of getting a vaccine appointment. We showed them it can be done easily, it can be done equitably and it can be done fairly," Father Rodriguez said. 

The state has been working to reach seniors through places of worship. Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Saturday that there have been vaccine events at more than 50 places of worship across Florida. 

"It’s hope," Placido said. "It’s hope that we can fight this disease. I’m feeling great. I feel very good."

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