TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Vaccinations saved the lives of an estimated 2,400 Floridians aged 65 and older between January and May of this year, according to a new report published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Health care groups point to it as evidence that the state’s “Seniors First” vaccine rollout strategy paid off.
The HHS report ranked Florida fourth in the total number of estimated elderly lives saved, behind only California, Texas and New York.
“Florida absolutely stood out,” said Florida Hospital Association CEO Mary Mayhew.
Mayhew said Florida was a leader when it came to prioritizing the elderly for vaccinations.
“Gov. DeSantis made clear that our number one priority to deploy the vaccine was for our elderly population,” said Mayhew.
When asked for a reaction to the HHS report, Christina Pushaw, the governor’s press secretary, sent us an emailed statement:
“Although COVID-19 can infect people of all ages, an 85-year-old (on average) is 570 times more likely to die from a COVID-19 infection than a 25-year-old (on average),” said Pushaw. “This is why Governor DeSantis prioritized vaccines for Seniors First, from the very beginning of the vaccine rollout – and the CDC ultimately changed its guidelines to reflect the same approach Governor DeSantis chose based on the science and empirical evidence.”
While the HHS estimates don’t include the latest delta surge, Kristen Knapp with the Florida Health Care Association said the state’s efforts to prioritize long-term care facilities for vaccination kept nursing home cases and deaths low despite the dramatic rise in community spread.
“We know it’s the safest way not only to protect our residents but protect ourselves against this virus,” said Knapp.
Mayhew also credited early treatment efforts for protecting seniors during the Delta surge.
“It played a significant role,” said Mayhew.
The governor’s office told us it estimates as many as 84,000 hospital admissions were avoided thanks to monoclonal antibody treatments.
“And that’s the kind of infrastructure that we’ve got to have at the ready, to the extent that we see a future surge,” said Mayhew.
The Florida Hospital Association emphasized encouraging younger Floridians to get vaccinated at higher rates will help reduce the severity of a future case spike.
The Florida Health Care Association said its next focus will be administering booster shots to the state’s long-term care residents.