ORLANDO, Fla. – The U.S. officially has a new weapon in its arsenal to use in the fight against COVID-19: a second vaccine.
The Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use Friday of the vaccine developed by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health. The decision comes days after health workers and nursing home residents began getting a similar coronavirus shot from Pfizer and BioNTech.
Extra doses from a second vaccine are urgently needed, as U.S. deaths hit all-time highs and some hospitals are running out of beds. But even with additional candidates in the pipeline, there won’t be enough for the general population until spring, and shots will be rationed in the meantime.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said Florida is preparing to receive 367,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine as soon as next week. According to the governor, the Moderna vaccine doses would go to 173 hospitals that did not get a portion of the state’s first shipment of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine earlier this week, which included fewer doses than the governor initially expected due to production issues.
The state posted a list at this link of Florida hospitals set to receive the Moderna vaccine.
State officials said they are able to distribute the Moderna vaccine to a large number of hospitals because it does not require ultra-cold storage.
Still, though, the governor said even between the two vaccines there won’t be enough doses to offer shots to members of the general public until early next year.
“As we get into, potentially, February you could be in a situation where there’s going to be vaccines for people regardless of circumstances or health risks or age. Probably not before that and maybe not quite at that point, but that is very possible so we’re just going to keep communicating, let folks know kind of what we’re doing,” DeSantis said earlier this week as Pfizer’s vaccine began being distributed throughout the state.
DeSantis said that timeline is, of course, fluid, especially with the hiccup that Pfizer is already having production issues that could jeopardize the shipments slated for the next few weeks.
An Army general in charge of COVID-19 vaccines apologized Saturday for “miscommunication” with states on the number of early doses delivered.
Gen. Gustave Perna’s remarks came a day after a second vaccine was added in the fight against the coronavirus. Governors in more than a dozen states say the federal government has told them next week’s shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be less than originally projected.
“I want to take personal responsibility for the miscommunication,” he said. “I know that’s not done much these days. But I am responsible. ... This is a herculean effort and we are not perfect.”
Perna says the government now is on track to get approximately 20 million doses to states by the first week of January, a combination of the newly approved Moderna vaccine and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. He says 2.9 million Pfizer-BioNTech doses have been delivered so far.
Until vaccines become more widely available, the shots will be administered by priority group, with Florida’s health care workers and most vulnerable residents at the top of the waiting list, according to the governor.
Frontline health care workers and long-term care facility residents and staff are the first groups who began receiving the Pfizer vaccine shots earlier this week. DeSantis has said he wants LTC facilities to be fully vaccinated within four weeks.
Central Florida education leaders are now asking the governor to consider educators and other school employees as part of his list of priority groups to get inoculated. Click here to read their requests.
Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins researchers on Saturday reported a record 249,709 new cases of COVID-19 in one day. An additional 2,814 people died nationwide, pushing the toll to more than 313,000.
[READ YESTERDAY’S REPORT: Florida reports 13,000 new COVID-19 infections as officials plead for safe holiday behavior]
Below is a breakdown of cases, recent deaths, hospitalizations and Florida’s positivity rate reported by the state on Dec. 19:
The Florida Department of Health reported 11,450 new cases on Saturday, bringing the state’s overall total to 1,193,165 cases since March.
Editor’s note: Along with the resources previously utilized by News 6 (state and county-by-county data), as of Dec. 7, WKMG has added state data pulled from the Florida Department of Health’s Florida COVID19 State Testing Totals. This new dataset includes the number of people tested the day prior, which is the number public health officials use to calculate the state’s daily positivity rate.
Florida reported 74 new virus deaths Saturday. This means at least 20,764 people have died in relation to coronavirus across the state, including 291 non-residents who died in Florida.
As of Saturday afternoon, there are currently 5,092 people with the virus hospitalized in Florida, according to the state Agency for Health Care Administration, a decrease by about 90 patients within 24 hours.
Since March, 59,851 people have been hospitalized in Florida after complications from the coronavirus. That number includes the 249 people who have been recently hospitalized due to the virus, according to the health department’s daily report.
The positivity rate for the 137,136 tests reported Saturday was 8.35%. This statistic is the number of people who tested positive for the first time based on test results reported to the state Friday.
See COVID-19 data for the Central Florida region below:
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The Associated Press and Brianna Volz contributed to this report.