What We’re Reading: Pharmacy Deserts in Rural America; ACA Extension Enrollment; Florida Vaccine Inequity

A lack of pharmacies in rural America could complicate COVID-19 vaccine rollout; over 200,000 Americans enrolled in Affordable Care Act plans during special period; wealthy, older residents in Florida receive COVID-19 vaccines.

Rural Vaccine Rollout Hindered by Lack of Pharmacies

A lack of brick-and-mortar pharmacies capable of administering COVID-19 vaccinations could hinder rollout in rural swaths of the country, Kaiser Health News reports. According to a Rural Policy Research Institute analysis, 111 counties, most located between the Mississippi River and Rocky Mountains, have no pharmacies that can give out vaccines, potentially leaving thousands of vulnerable Americans struggling to receive a shot. In these areas, residents may have to drive long distances to get vaccines, as an analysis shows more than 1.6 million individuals live more than 20 miles away from the nearest pharmacy. Efforts could also be hampered by difficult weather or road conditions. Under these circumstances, residents will either have to drive further to get a vaccine or rely on mobile clinics.

More Than 200,000 Americans Enroll in ACA Plans During Extension

Over 200,000 Americans have signed up for Affordable Care Act health plans between February 15 and February 28 — the first 2 weeks of a special enrollment period ordered by President Joe Biden—according to The Washington Post. The figures released by federal health officials show the total was nearly 3 times higher than the same period last year and 3.5 times greater than the same time in 2019. The 3-month enrollment extension has just begun, and rates are lower compared with the first 2 weeks of the most recent regular enrollment time, which saw 1.6 million Americans sign up. The president has since encouraged all who need health insurance to enroll before the May 15 close, while officials announced they were allotting navigators $2.3 million in aid for the rest of the extension period.

Inequity in Vaccine Distribution Reported in Florida

Most wealthy individuals aged 65 and older living in a gated enclave in the Florida Keys (The Ocean Reef Club) were vaccinated by mid-January while the state’s eldest residents continue to struggle to receive their first dose, The Miami Herald reports. The community received enough doses to vaccinate 1200 homeowners who qualified under the state’s guidelines at the time; however, it is unclear how the community received so many vaccines before much of the rest of the state. The club is home to many wealthy donors to the Florida Republican Party and GOP candidates, according to The Herald, including Governor Ron DeSantis (R). Records show that since the governor started steering the state’s pop-up vaccinations to select communities, his political committee has raised over $2 million in February—more than any other month since he first ran for governor in 2018.