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Florida vaccinations would take more than a year at current pace

A coronavirus vaccine shot is administered at the Student Health Services at UCF. Image provided by UCF
A coronavirus vaccine shot is administered at the Student Health Services at UCF. Image provided by UCF (©University of Central Florida)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It could take more than a year to vaccinate all Floridians based on the number of vaccine doses the state is currently receiving on a weekly basis.

The timetable came to light as the Florida Surgeon General fielded tough questions from state senators.

Testifying before the Senate Health Policy Committee, State Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees said the COVID-19 vaccine supply isn’t meeting the demand.

“How you convey during a pandemic, it’s a very difficult conversation to have and frankly, it’s heartbreaking,” said Rivkees.

But Senators like Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, pushed for some sense of a timeline for their constituents.

Bean said the Nassau County Commission was slated to have an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss vaccination efforts. Bean, who represents the county, said thousands of people signed up through a Nassau County website to get vaccinated but there was no supply.

“We have to be able to say, we don’t have any now, but it’s coming. When’s it coming?” said Bean.

After taking similar questions from other lawmakers, Rivkees laid out the current situation.

“We’re getting about 200,000 [to] 250,000 doses a week,” said Rivkees.

At that rate, it would take more than a year to vaccinate the general population, but Rivkees provided some hope for optimism.

“This is our path out of the pandemic and I don’t think there’s any question that we are going to see a substantial increase in terms of vaccine availability,” said Rivkees.

The state has received 1.6 million vaccine doses to date.

Of those, more than 600,000 have been administered, leaving about a million doses still in the freezer.

There’s also been difficulty interpreting the Governor’s executive order.

Some home healthcare works report being turned away for vaccinations.

Rivkees made it clear, any healthcare worker in direct contact with patients is eligible to be vaccinated.

Committee Chair Manny Diaz said the state needs to do a better job clarifying that intent.

“Usually I would expect that that’s being handled by the Department of Health because they’re in the front line on this,” said Diaz.

The Surgeon General also addressed issues with vaccine scheduling web sites crashing, saying the Department of Health is working on a statewide scheduling portal that will likely roll out in the next few weeks.