State puts lid on number of Floridians waiting for 2nd COVID-19 shot

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Health is no longer publishing the number of people waiting for their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The health department said the number was causing confusion, but some state lawmakers argue the move is yet another example of a lack of transparency as a combination of high demand and low supply hounds the vaccine rollout.

“People are calling my office desperate, yelling, screaming,” State Sen. Lori Berman said. “Elderly, infirm, sick people, and they can’t get a vaccine.”

Some hospitals have stopped giving out first doses to ensure an adequate supply for those who are eligible for booster shots. Based on the last reported numbers, there were more than 40,000 Floridians classified as being overdue for their second shot.

To the dismay of some lawmakers, the health department decided Wednesday to stop publishing those statistics.

“The more data, the better to help our government make informed decisions and for the public to hold the government accountable,” State Rep. Anna Eskamani said.

In an emailed statement, the health department said the decision to stop reporting the numbers is two-fold: for one, the agency said the statistics aren’t reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and two, a spokesperson said the designation is misleading.

“This number is being removed to align with CDC reporting, which only includes information on first dose and series complete (first and second dose),” health department spokesman Jason Mahon said, adding that the statistics could leading to “confusion.”

The guidance from the CDC states in part that “there is no maximum interval between the first and second doses for either vaccine.”

According to Mahon, that means no one is “overdue” for their second shot.

“No one is overdue for their second dose, but rather, will be eligible for their second dose,” he said. “The Department of Health continues to recommend that individuals receive their second dose at 28 days for the Moderna vaccine, or 21 days for the Pfizer vaccine.”

Lawmakers still argue it would be beneficial to know how many people who are eligible for the second dose are waiting for theirs.

“So that we can provide clarity and comfort and answers to Floridians that are waiting their turn,” Eskamani said. “Not providing insight into how many people need a second booster shot impacts the timeline for when our teachers can get vaccinated, for when our essential workers can get vaccinated. At this point, we’re operating without a transparent plan.”

Some lawmakers said they are hopeful President Joe Biden’s administration will work to ramp up vaccine production and better communicate to the states how much vaccine they can expect to receive on a long-term basis.

Interview requests made to Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees and Jared Moskovitz, director of the Division of Emergency Management, went unanswered.