By Dan Moffett
The Briny Breezes Town Council wants to set up a COVID-19 vaccination pod, so that when vaccines become available, the town can deliver them quickly and efficiently to residents.
But like so many things in 2020, even the good ideas come wrapped in complications and unintended consequences.
Mayor Gene Adams, who is leading the vaccination pod effort, told the council during its Nov. 19 meeting that two options from county health officials are feasible.
One is to bring in a mobile unit from the Palm Beach County Health Department to vaccinate residents, much in the way a county unit came to Briny Breezes and tested people last summer.
The other option is for the town to set up its own vaccination pod, recruiting volunteers and finding a nurse practitioner or other licensed medical professional to run it.
If Briny chooses to rely exclusively on the county, the town likely wouldn’t have much control over how and when vaccines are administered. But then, the town’s trying to run its own pod could come with expenses, be difficult to staff and raise potential legal and statutory issues.
“Where the town has more control, it also brings with it additional responsibility,” Town Attorney Keith Davis told the council. “In that scenario it’s required to comply with all HIPAA requirements, providing appropriate insurance and maintaining the appropriate confidentiality protections for all records.
“When the Health Department puts us on their schedule, they assume responsibility for all those things.”
HIPAA refers to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, designed to protect people’s privacy. Another issue that must be resolved is whether the pod should be open only to Briny residents or to neighboring communities as well. Council President Sue Thaler said that decision isn’t as important as ensuring the town complies with the sizable list of federal and state laws and regulations.
“I’m more concerned about the legal liability issues, records confidentiality and insurance issues,” Thaler said. “We have support for the (vaccination pod) idea but then the question becomes, do we do it ourselves?”
The council and staff decided to research the choices and discuss the pod plan again at the Dec. 17 town meeting.
No matter which way Briny goes, demographics likely will work in the town’s favor.
“The fact that we have an older community may help us get the vaccines sooner,” Adams said.
In other business, the council unanimously approved the second reading of an ordinance that puts a series of charter amendments on the March 9 municipal election ballot.
The amendments, if approved by voters, would give the town a formal charter, with specific regulations, definitions and procedures for governance.