ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Following frontline workers and long-term care facilities, which groups will be next to receive available coronavirus vaccines will vary from state to state but in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis says he plans to prioritize the state’s older residents.
DeSantis plans to release new details Tuesday on the state’s second phase of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan. This comes after a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel made recommendations Sunday that the next priority vaccination group include people 75 and older, this group includes about 20 million people, along with essential workers.
The essential workers include firefighters and police; teachers and school staff; those working in food, agricultural and manufacturing sectors; corrections workers; U.S. Postal Service employees; public transit workers; and grocery store workers. They are considered at very high risk of infection because their jobs are critical and require them to be in regular contact with other people. This group includes about 30 million people.
The committee also voted that behind those groups should be people ages 65 to 74, numbering about 30 million; those ages 16 to 64 with medical conditions like obesity and cancer who are at higher risk if they get COVID-19, numbering as many as 110 million; and a tier of other essential workers. This group of as many as 57 million includes a wide category of food service and utility workers but also those in legal and financial jobs and the media.
The expert panel’s recommendation next goes to the CDC director and to states as guidance to put together vaccination programs. CDC directors have almost always signed off on committee recommendations. No matter what the CDC says, there will be differences from state to state, because various health departments have different ideas about who should be closer to the front of the line.
DeSantis disagreed with that panel’s most recent recommendation, citing the virus mortality rate in those between 65 and 75 years old.
“They were going to prioritize essential workers over elderly. I think that’s a huge mistake,” DeSantis said. “The problem with that, as I see it, is a 22-year-old food service worker would get a vaccine over 74-year-old grandmother. I don’t think that that’s an appropriate calculation of the relative risk there.”
The governor said he plans to release more information Tuesday on how Florida will approach prioritizing the vaccine beyond frontline workers and long-term care facilities.
“Suffice it to say our whole strategy around COVID has always recognized the dramatic discrepancy in risk based on age,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis has challenged the DOH to inoculate all long-term care facilities within four weeks. Florida is just completing its first week with the Pfzier vaccine and Moderna’s newly approved shots are also on the way.
There are more than 321,000 residents and staff at such facilities across Florida, according to the Agency for Health Care Administration.
DeSantis said Florida is expected to receive 61,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine Monday and more than 300,000 doses Tuesday. Those will be distributed to more than 170 hospitals throughout the state. Florida is also expecting about 12,000 Pfizer vaccine doses to arrive within 48 hours, according to the governor.
DOH strike teams along with CVS and Walgreens pharmacy staff have now both begun inoculations in LTC facilities as part of a partnership with the federal government.
The vaccine is not expected to be available to the general public or anyone who wants it until at least next spring.
In the first days of the largest vaccine campaign in recent history, initial shots were given to about 556,000 Americans, including more than 40,000 Floridians, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.