Florida one of first in U.S. to rollout coronavirus vaccination program in long-term care facilities

State begins distribution program for vulnerable population

At the John Knox Village near Fort Lauderdale, 90 of the 100 residents of its skilled-nursing facility were getting vaccinated Wednesday. (CNN)

POMPANO BEACH, Fla. – Florida marked another historic step Wednesday toward the end of the pandemic, as a medical professional administered Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine at a long-term care facility.

Gov. Ron DeSantis was at John Knox Village in Pompano Beach as he announced the South Florida facility was one of the first of its kind to receive and distribute the shots marking the start of the Florida’s distribution plan in long-term care facilities.

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The state received its initial shipment of Pfizer’s vaccine this week, with 100,000 doses allocated to Florida’s frontline workers. DeSantis said another 60,000 will go to CVS and Walgreens with the state allocating another 20,000 doses to help with vaccination efforts in LTC facilities.

DeSantis says Florida has already distributed initial doses to CVS and Walgreens. He further explained the two pharmacies have a contract with the federal government to vaccinate senior citizens and long-term care facility staff beginning Monday.

However, he said this isn’t enough.

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The governor has prompted the Florida Department of Health and the Division of Emergency Management to create strike teams to administer the vaccines in long-term care facilities as soon as they received them. These strike teams began their work Wednesday.

“We wanted to cut through bureaucracy. We didn’t want to see delays; we didn’t want entire fortunes to be in the hands of what those companies did,” he said. “We believe the quicker you can get in today, the easier it’s going to be the next couple months.”

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Much like most of the logistics involving the coronavirus pandemic, the governor says there will be an emphasis on long-term care facilities within certain counties.

Florida has dedicated a total of 21,450 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine between Broward and Pinellas counties as they have a high concentration of such facilities, the governor said. Six nursing homes in Miami-Dade County will also receive shipments of the shots. The governor assured vaccinations among residents and staff at all facilities are voluntary.

The state anticipates vaccinating 112 long-term care facilities over the next week, with hopes to expand its distribution plans.

DeSantis expressed the logistical challenge is receiving doses in a timely manner.

“We have not been assured about additional Pfizer vaccine for the rest of December,” DeSantis said.

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According to the governor, the state was prepared to receive 200,000 doses of the vaccine next week and another 250,000 the final week of December. DeSantis said he received word Pfizer is having production issues and may not be able to produce the number of vials expected.

“They’ve actually populated a shipment for next week. We don’t think it’s going to quite be 200,000 but we’re encouraged by that,” he said.

With the U.S. Food and Drug Administration poised to approve Moderna Inc.’s coronavirus vaccine by the end of the week, DeSantis says Florida is in line to receive 367,000 doses of the drug once approved saying the state is prepared to receive shipments as early as this weekend calling the efforts to vaccinate Floridians a top priority.

“We got to use what we have,” he said. “If we can get through these folks, continue with the health care workers, as we get more Moderna in the future and more Pfizer even perhaps as listed the last week of December, then we can start working on getting (to) our elderly population who are not in these facilities.”

The governor says after the state distributes the vaccine to residents in long-term care facilities the hope is to shift efforts to Florida’s 65 and older population, which he expects can happen in the coming months.

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