JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With great anticipation and on live television, the first COVID-19 vaccines in Florida were administered Dec. 14 to hospital employees n the lobby of UF Health Jacksonville.
Throughout that week, hospitals around the state received the Pfizer vaccine -- part of Florida’s initial allotment of 179,400 doses -- and began giving shots to their frontline health care workers.
The Moderna vaccine received emergency use authorization a week after Pfizer and the federal government contracted with CVS and Walgreens to begin vaccinating residents and staff of long-term care facilities across Florida. By the last week of December, Jacksonville and other communities began vaccinating firefighters and EMTs who would be used to help vaccinate the general public.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s initial guidelines suggested people 75 years old and above should be the first members of the public to receive vaccinations, Gov. Ron DeSantis lowered that to 70, then to 65 before the first shots became available to seniors as the new year began.
Despite initial concerns that large numbers of people would resist getting vaccinated, so far the problem is not enough supply, not lack of acceptance. Phone lines and websites set up to take vaccine appointments were quickly overrun. Long lines at vaccination sites prompted public safety concerns.
Over the first 30 days, between hospitals, county health departments, state-supported sites like Prime Osborn, which transitioned to Regency Square, and select Publix pharmacies, 849,317 first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were administered in Florida, according to the Department of Health.
As we pass the two-month mark, FDOH reports 1,273,651 first doses administered -- about half-again more than the number of first shots given in the first 30 days. But 1,082,141 people in Florida have had both shots and are fully vaccinated.
State data also show 1,044,150 people -- or 82% -- of those who’ve received a first dose in Florida are 65 or above. While the vast majority of the vaccine so far has gone to seniors, only about one-in-four seniors in the state has received their first shot.
As DeSantis often says, the state’s vaccination data appears to lag real-time, so the numbers are probably higher.
He also loves to point out that Florida ranks near the top of vaccines distributed by population. According to Johns Hopkins University, only Oklahoma, Alaska, West Virginia, New Mexico and North Dakota have vaccinated a higher percentage of residents than Florida.
When will younger people be eligible to get a shot? When will we have vaccinated enough Americans to turn the corner on this pandemic?
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, announced Thursday on NBC’s Today Show that “virtually everybody and anybody in any category could start to get vaccinated” by April.
Later that day, the Biden administration said it has secured enough doses to vaccinate 300 million Americans -- the vast majority of us -- by the end of July.
We’ve already seen an increase in the supply -- 300,000 more dose in Florida last week alone -- and some Walmart and Winn-Dixie stores in Florida began vaccinating people late last week, with CVS and Walgreens pharmacies in the state expected to begin getting a supply for the general public soon.
COVID-19 Projections, which uses machine learning to process data about the virus, suggests that the United States will near “herd immunity” by August, using currently accepted estimates that such protection of the entire population is reached when 60-90% of people have immunity.
But as we’ve seen many times, projections about the future of this virus have often been wrong and the COVID variants showing up in America from around the world are a wild card.
All health care experts are sure if is that masks, social distancing and hand hygiene will help protect us until that mythical day when this coronavirus becomes like previous ones -- which we control with annual vaccines or it mutates into something that no longer threatens our lives and livelihoods.