DeSantis: Nearly 350,000 Florida seniors have received COVID-19 vaccine

THE VILLAGES – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday that nearly 350,000 seniors have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine since mid-December.

After a slow start, the state saw an increase in vaccinations last week as more vaccines arrived and more vaccination sites opened up.

“There weren’t a lot of vaccinations Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s. So, last week was really the first full week where everyone was back in the saddle,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis said he expects another 250,000 first doses to arrive Tuesday and the state plans to continue to go against CDC vaccination guidelines that recommend front-line workers — like teachers, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers — and those 75 years and older and focus on vaccinating Florida residents 65 years and older.

“We are remaining proactive so that when additional doses come, our infrastructure will be able to process it,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis said the state will have no problem using up the new shipment of vaccines.

Gay Corbin is one of the hundreds of people that have been waiting to get the vaccine in Jacksonville. Corbin has friends and family members that are suffering from COVID-19 right now.

“I’ve had three family members that have had COVID,” Corbin said.

Corbin said that’s why it was critical to get the vaccine.

Hansel Baskel also decided to stop and get the vaccine.

“I am very, very relieved. The virus has been out there, and every time you go out, you just think, ‘How many people am I going to be around?’” Baskel said. “They make you sit down after you take the shot to make sure you don’t get any reaction to it. I thought it was really well done.”

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DeSantis’s comments come a day after data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Monday afternoon shows the state of Florida has 1,661,675 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, but only about 633,000 have been administered. In Central Florida, health departments said vaccines on “hold” are put in storage, but are intended to be used.

This means of the vaccines Florida has received, only 38% have been given. That represents roughly 3% of Floridians.

But that could change.

The Associated Press reported the Trump administration shifted gears Tuesday to speed the delivery of shots to more people. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced a series of major changes, including the government will stop holding back the second doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Additionally, Washington is urging states to immediately start vaccinating other groups lower down the priority scale, including people age 65 and older and younger people with certain health problems.

DeSantis suggested last month that it might make more sense to send as many first shots as possible now and figure out second shots later as vaccine production increases. President-elect Joe Biden made a similar suggestion Monday.

“It’s a sensible thing. You have to think through the implications of it, but if you can get more shots going, knowing the production is going to continue to come, you’re almost assuredly going to be able to make it work so that you have the booster shot ready to go,” DeSantis said.

At his second press conference of the day in Niceville, DeSantis announced that it is expanding its vaccine partnership with Publix supermarkets. As of now, DeSantis said the public is receiving between 100 and 250 shots a day at 22 Publix stores in Marion, Hernando and Citrus counties. Starting Wednesday, a total of 18 stores in Okaloosa, Escambia and Santa Rosa counties in the Panhandle will start taking online appointments Wednesday for vaccinations starting on Thursday.

Each store will be able to administer around 100 shots per day.

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