WEST PALM BEACH, Florida. – Now that Florida health care workers have begun receiving doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, the next step is to begin vaccinating residents in long-term care facilities who could become seriously ill if they contract the deadly respiratory virus.
Governor Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday that he expects these efforts to begin as early as Wednesday. He said he will provide more details on that initiative at that time.
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“It is very, very significant that we provide vaccinations to anyone in a nursing home who wishes to. Obviously they’re the most at risk for most infections, but certainly that too, ”DeSantis said.
Nursing homes and other similar facilities were closed to visitors in March, when cases of COVID-19 first started appearing in the Sunshine State. The ban was lifted in September, but the governor said mitigation efforts have reduced the quality of life of those residents.
“This has such a huge impact because of all the mitigation going on, they haven’t really been able to have, I think, a full capacity to thrive these many months. Now we have made sure they can have visitors and have supported everything. that, but it won’t be the same until we get the vaccinations in those facilities and then we start that process tomorrow. We have thousands of facilities in Florida, it’s not as easy as it would be in a smaller state, “DeSantis said.
About 100,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine Florida received this week will go to hospitals so they can vaccinate their frontline workers, while another 60,000 will go to CVS and Walgreens to be administered to long-term care facilities. The state is also expected to receive an additional 20,000 doses to help with vaccination efforts in long-term care facilities.
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Once these two target populations receive their first doses, the state will then move to focus on elderly residents who are not in long-term care facilities but who may still develop a serious COVID-19 infection.
DeSantis thinks it won’t be until about February before the vaccine is available to the general public, although that depends on when the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is approved.
“The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, unlike Pfizer and Moderna, is just one dose … Johnson & Johnson is just regular refrigeration and you take it once. This makes it easier to do it on a mass scale because you can go and school districts they can offer it to teachers and once you’ve given the lead, you don’t have to worry about going back, ”DeSantis said.
Johnson & Johnson is expected to apply for emergency use authorization in late January, and if approved, the first doses will be shipped shortly thereafter.
The governor also reiterated that vaccination will not be mandatory, but he believes many Floridians will choose to get the shot.
“So I think it’s something that people should be proficient in. At the same time, I think it’s perfectly reasonable for someone who might not be terribly at risk to say, ‘Okay, you know, even if he’s available to me, maybe I’ll wait. I understand why someone wants to do it. Your higher risk, I think you’ll probably want to get it as soon as possible, “DeSantis said.
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