MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Gov. Ron DeSantis is bucking a Centers for Disease Control panel recommendation on who should receive the coronavirus vaccine as more doses are sent to the state.
At a news conference in The Villages, DeSantis said the state's priority will be given to the state's seniors.
"I want to make one point very clear, there were discussions amongst the CDC's advisory committee about vaccinations over the weekend that actually had a proposal to place 'younger essential workers' ahead of elderly individuals. Now that was met with, deserved, a lot of backlash. They had to revise that and they're now recommending that the next round of the vaccine be reserved for both essential workers and those who are 75 and up. Now just understand what that would mean. If you're a 22-year-old working in food services, let's say at a supermarket, you would have preference over a 74-year-old grandmother. I don't think that is the direction we want to go," he said.
DeSantis said those recommendations, should the CDC adopt them, are advisory and do not bind states, they do not bind individual governors, and they do not bind the state of Florida.
He stressed that all of Florida's senior citizens need to be the next priority, not just those in nursing homes. After that, he said we can move on to other groups of people.
"Our vaccines are going to be targeted for our elderly population. We've been going through over the last week, the tip of the spear healthcare workers, as well as our long term care residents and staff. That vision continues. There's been a lot of progress made on that, but as we get into the general community, the vaccines are going to be targeted where the risk is the greatest and that is in our elderly population," he said.
"We are not going to put young, healthy workers ahead of our elderly, vulnerable population," he added.
The governor said last week the state received 179,400 doses of the Pfizer vaccine which was used for high contact healthcare workers and staff and residents of long-term care facilities.
South Florida's long-term care residents and staff are now in the second week of vaccinations. DeSantis said he continues to send in strike teams to bolster CVS and Walgreens vaccine distributions to assisted living facilities.
DeSantis noted that Florida was the first state in the nation to begin vaccinating residents of long-term care facilities.
CBS4 spoke to South Florida seniors about being next in line for the COVID vaccine.
"It follows the science," said Chuck Davis, who said he agreed with the governor.
Joyce Panzarino is also in agreement with the governor.
"Sign me up. I don't want to get sick," the 78-year-old said.
MaryJo VanDam said she agreed seniors should be next to get the vaccine.
The 81-year-old said younger workers have a better chance of fighting off serious Illness.
But 64-year-old James Meade said he thinks the vaccine should go to younger essential workers.
"People my age have been In quarantine because of the pandemic. Those workers deal with the public a lot more," he said.
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The governor said this week they received an additional 120,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and by the end of Tuesday, the state should have 360,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine. He said the Moderna vaccine is being distributed more widely than the initial Pfizer doses which were limited by the Department of Health and Human Services to just five hospitals in the state.
The state has an additional 173 hospitals receiving the Moderna vaccine which does not require the ultra-cold storage that the Pfizer vaccine needs.
"We now have this light at the end of the tunnel for our elderly where you're going to have in relatively short order access to a safe and effective vaccine. We have here in the state of Florida people 65 and older, about 4.4 million residents. Seventy and over is about 3.12 million residents. So as you look forward about the vaccines being allocated, we are not going to have of the next six weeks 4.4 million doses for individuals. We probably will have a couple million, we'll see how that works," he said.
DeSantis said he expects Florida to get 750,000 more doses by the end of this month and between one and a half to 2 million doses in January.
"So what I would say to the elderly population is that it is going to be reserved for you but not everyone is going to be able to do it on day one, it's going to take some time to be able to make sure everybody has access, but we're going to work very hard at the state to provide what we can for our healthcare providers to be able to make this happen. The next six weeks, eight weeks we should be able to make huge progress," he said.
The chief medical officer for Walgreens, which is distributing the vaccine to long-term care facilities, gave CBS4 a timeline.
Dr. Kevin Ban said he thinks all healthcare workers, elderly and essential workers will get the vaccine by next March. The general public would then get it in April of 2021.
"You will be able to make an appointment and get the vaccine at our stores much like you get the flu vaccine," he said.
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