Governor: Florida’s decision not to mandate COVID-19 vaccine will help with credibility

Vaccine became politicized during presidential election, Gov. DeSantis says

FILE - This May 4, 2020, file photo provided by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, shows the first patient enrolled in Pfizer's COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. Pfizers COVID-19 vaccine is entering the final phase of review by U.S. government regulators. The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday, Dec. 8 released a positive review of the vaccine. (Courtesy of University of Maryland School of Medicine via AP, File) (Uncredited, University of Maryland School of Medicine)

TAMPA, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday said he believes not mandating that Floridians get a COVID-19 vaccine will help people feel more at ease about taking one.

At a news conference in Tampa, the governor explained why he wasn’t making the vaccine mandatory one day after he announced the Sunshine State is set to receive nearly 180,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine as soon as it’s approved.

“I think the fact that we’re not mandating it helps our credibility because the minute you mandate, man, people would be in the corner, and you would have a lot of problems,” DeSantis said.

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DeSantis said he believes mandating the vaccine would create a sticky situation and pointed out that he believes there’s already so much mistrust surrounding the vaccine because it was highly politicized during the presidential election.

DeSantis said he hopes to have enough doses of COVID-19 vaccines that eventually all Floridians will have the option to get vaccinated, but he added that it will be months before that is a possibility.

“We’re offering it. We want as soon as there’s enough supply for everyone who wants it, to get it free of charge. That’s the goal. That will take months, but that’s the goal. But no one will be forced to take it,” DeSantis said.

The governor said he expects the demand for COVID-19 vaccines to be high as Floridians continue to crave normalcy and hope the vaccine will allow them to return to some degree of it.

“I think the fact that this has been tough on a lot of people, people are going to want to be able to kind of have their lives back to normal, particularly in the high-risk group, so I think you’re gonna have a lot of demand. I don’t think it’s going to be as high as we hope, but I think it’ll be higher than a lot of people thought maybe a couple months ago,” DeSantis said.

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According to an update released by the governor Thursday evening, Florida is preparing to receive its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines within the week and has a plan in place to begin distributing the shots to the state’s most vulnerable.

In the initial shipment, Florida is set to receive nearly 179,400 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which was endorsed for widespread use on Thursday by a U.S. panel.

The first shipment of the vaccine will be distributed as follows, according to the governor:

  • 97,500 doses will be sent to hospitals to administer vaccine to high-contact and high-exposure health care personnel
  • 60,450 doses of vaccine will be sent to CVS and Walgreens for use in long-term care facilities.
  • 21,450 doses of vaccine will go directly to the Florida Department of Health

DeSantis said on Friday that once long-term care facilities and health care officials were vaccinated, his next goal is to vaccinate Florida’s elderly population, who is also considered among the most at risk of contracting COVID-19.

“My goal after the long-term care facilities and in terms of the hospital workers would be getting it out to the elderly and the senior citizen, the broader population. That’s where most of the risk is. And if we’re able to do that, that is going to really, really help reduce mortality, reduce morbidity,” DeSantis said.

The FDA is in the final stages of evaluating Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine for possible authorization of emergency use in the U.S. and is set to review Moderna’s next week.

The governor said between AstraZeneca, Johnson and Johnson and other companies working on developing COVID-19 vaccines, the U.S. could eventually see “six or seven potential vaccines.”