Florida to prioritize long-term care residents, health care workers for COVID-19 vaccine

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. (Courtesy of University of Maryland School of Medicine via AP, File) (University of Maryland School of Medicine)

Florida will prioritize long-term care residents and then front-line health care workers for the COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday.

In a video message providing an update on the state’s vaccine distribution plan, DeSantis said residents of long-term care facilities will be first in the line for the vaccine once available.

“They are at the greatest risk and this vaccine could have a tremendously positive impact on them,” he said.

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DeSantis said the second group will be health care workers who are in high-risk and high-contact environments.

The third will be people 65 and older, as well as those who have significant comorbidities, DeSantis said.

“Of course, in Florida, we want to get as much vaccine for our citizens as possible, but we know we will not, nor will any state, have enough to vaccinate everyone right off the bat,” DeSantis said. “So we’ve had to set priorities.”

The priorities are similar to recommendations made Tuesday by a government advisory panel. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which makes recommendations to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, voted 13-1 to recommend health care workers and nursing home residents should be at the front of the line when the first coronavirus vaccine shots become available.

Later this month, the Food and Drug Administration will consider authorizing emergency use of two vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna. Current estimates project that no more than 20 million doses of each vaccine will be available by the end of 2020. And each product requires two doses. As a result, the shots will be rationed in the early stages.

DeSantis pointed out that other vaccines are on the horizon.

“So, as we work to get the most high risk vaccinated in December and into January, you may see during the month of January, an FDA approval for Johnson & Johnson, and perhaps that could start hitting by the time we get into February. There would be enough produced of that to have widespread vaccination,” DeSantis said. “Distributing a vaccine across a large and diverse state is a big challenge, but this is a major priority for the state of Florida.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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