It’s been about a year since the world first learned of COVID-19. Since then, there have been more than 17 million cases and more than 300,000 deaths from the disease in the United States alone. To put it mildly, the pandemic’s effects have been far-reaching. Approximately 12.6 million people have become unemployed, hospitals have been overrun, resources have been tapped, supply-chains have been taxed, and children and adults have been forced to adjust to learning and working remotely. Who would have ever thought that we could or would see such things in our lifetimes?
However, and at long last, we’ve finally received some good news. Where it normally takes five years or more to develop, test, and approve a vaccine for use, we have seen an unprecedented collaboration between the public and private sectors, and Operation “Warp Speed” has resulted in not just one, but four potential vaccines being approved for emergency use in the space of less than one year. Once vaccines have been approved for such use, the challenge becomes one of distributing the approved vaccines and making sure that the most vulnerable among us are the earliest to be vaccinated.
In connection with vaccine distribution, one method that has been used previously involves the “Closed Point of Dispensing (“POD”) Program.” Pursuant to this program, the federal government employs a system for the disbursement of lifesaving medications, from the Strategic National Stockpile to each state’s department of health (DOH). In turn, each DOH is required to dispense these medications to its entire population. To assist in this effort, the DOHs partner with local communities to form PODs so that communities can dispense medications to their residents. An association that has established itself as a Closed POD will have a direct relationship with the county health department to receive, store, and administer COVID-19 vaccines to all its residents once such vaccines are available.
Should such an option become available, a condominium or homeowners’ association would be required enter into an agreement with the county health department and the Florida DOH. In exchange for providing the county with a head count of likely vaccine recipients and agreeing to not charge for the vaccines, the county would ensure that the association is given exclusive access to enough vaccines to administer to its residents (and to any employees, contractors, and essential personnel the association includes in its head count). Additionally, any such agreement would require associations to: properly store the vaccines; ensure that a licensed medical professional oversees the storage, handling, and administration of the vaccines (if there isn’t one in the association, the county/DOH will assign one); have individuals who have been vaccinated complete a registration form; maintain an inventory of supplies received and/or administered; return unused vaccines to the county; and ensure that the associations are sufficiently insured.
Presently, Palm Beach County has advised that it is not considering activating the Closed POD Program. No decisions have yet been reached as to whether or not Broward or Miami-Dade Counties will implement the Program. If this should become an available option, it may provide a significant benefit to an association and to its residents. It is also notable that, in lieu ofPresently, Palm Beach County has advised that it is not considering activating the Closed POD Program. No decisions have yet been reached as to whether or not Broward or Miami-Dade Counties will implement the Program. If this should become an available option, it may provide a significant benefit to an association and to its residents. It is also notable that, in lieu ofimplementing the Closed POD Program, an “Open” POD Program involving state and/or county operated mobile vaccination units being placed within a community may alternatively be utilized to assist in the distribution of vaccines. However, given the issues and obligations discussed in this article, associations are encouraged to obtain advice from their legal counsel and insurers about becoming a Closed POD before entering into any agreements with local or state health departments.
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