Florida is the first state in the country to begin offering vaccines to staff and residents of long-term care facilities, the first to offer vaccines to Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and paramedics, and the first to mobilize health departments and county emergency managers to vaccinate seniors, according to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
The governor explained, during today’s press conference at Kings Point in Delray Beach, the state’s leadership in these areas is due to its commitment to vaccinate senior citizens as expeditiously as possible.
While the Centers for Disease Control recommends priority going first to “essential workers,” DeSantis deviated from that recommendation and signed an executive order last week to put healthcare workers and high-risk citizens at the front of the line.
“Seniors are our focus,” DeSantis said.
“There was a recommendation from the CDC that you [vaccinate] so-called essential workers. What’s essential?” the governor said. “There’s a lot of people who work really hard that the CDC doesn’t consider essential, but their family considers them essential. I consider them essential.”
DeSantis said the CDC recommendation would put young people ahead of the elderly in line.
“We’re not going to be putting young people ahead of our elderly population,” said DeSantis. “If you have somebody that works for a grocery store or food services that may be 22, they would have priority over someone who is 73.”
The governor told those 65 or older to start their search for a vaccine with their county health departments and if they can’t get the vaccine through the health department to check with their local hospitals.
Desantis reported the health departments in Duval, Escambia, Lee, Leon, Miani-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach and Seminole counties have the vaccine and he expects all the other counties in the state to have it by next week.
He also said state “strike forces” were mobilized to vaccinate those in long-term care facilities.
He warned seniors to be patient. “Supply is limited,” DeSantis said. “We don’t have enough vaccines for all four million plus senior citizens in Florida.”
However, more vaccines are expected in the upcoming weeks and months.
The governor said Florida has 175,000 doses currently available, but expects that number to rise.
“Thanks to our state’s strong partnership with the federal government and Florida hospitals, more than 146,000 individuals have been vaccinated in Florida, including front-line health care workers, staff and residents of long-term care facilities and individuals 65 and older,” said DeSantis. “This week, Florida will receive over 120,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine and will distribute these doses to hospitals and county health departments that have not previously received the vaccine.”
It was reported by the News Service of Florida that several hospitals are confused over distribution methods and criticized what they see as a lack of a clear plan from the governor’s office.
However, several others tout the state’s efforts and praise the governor.
“Governor DeSantis has shown tremendous leadership on getting the vaccine out into our community quickly,” said Carlos A. Migoya, president and CEO of Jackson Health System. “By having a Governor who plans ahead and gives us clear direction on priorities, we have already provided the first shot to all frontline staff who want the vaccine and we are beginning to schedule appointments for Jackson patients and other Miami-Dade residents 65 and older. We look forward to continuing this great work in South Florida as we stop COVID-19 together.”
“On behalf of Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, we are eternally grateful to Governor DeSantis and his leadership team for the quick deployment of COVID-19 vaccines in our community,” said Mark O’Bryant, President & CEO of Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare. “We received 6,700 doses which allowed us to expand our distribution plans beyond our colleagues to include physician practices, community clinics and other healthcare partners, as well as our neighboring rural hospitals.” “Deploying the vaccine as quickly as possible to those who need it most will, most importantly, save lives, but it also grants us the hope of a world free of COVID-19.”
“We appreciate the Governor’s leadership in directing the Agency for Healthcare Administration, State Department of Health, and Florida Division of Emergency Management to work with local leaders, hospitals, and pharmacies to undertake this incredible logistical challenge,” said Dr. Larry Antonucci, President & CEO of Lee Health. “The partnership has been phenomenal and we are pleased to have already vaccinated 1,500 of our frontline health care workers. We look forward to continued collaborative efforts with the Governor’s office and state agencies to vaccinate our community against the COVID-19 virus.”