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Florida governor promises focus on elderly for COVID vaccinations

Florida state public health officials rolled out a COVID-19 vaccination program Dec. 16, 2020 at St. John's Nursing Center in Fort Lauderdale, part of Catholic Health Services of the Archdiocese of Miami. Staff and residents of the facility, along with Archbishop Thomas Wenski, were offered the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized for emergency use Dec. 11, 2020.

Photographer: TOM TRACY | FC

Florida state public health officials rolled out a COVID-19 vaccination program Dec. 16, 2020 at St. John's Nursing Center in Fort Lauderdale, part of Catholic Health Services of the Archdiocese of Miami. Staff and residents of the facility, along with Archbishop Thomas Wenski, were offered the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized for emergency use Dec. 11, 2020.

MIAMI | At the end of December, Florida senior citizens began getting COVID-19 vaccinations from hospitals and county health departments in partnership with county emergency managers. 

The Florida State Emergency Response Team had asked hospitals to begin executing plans to vaccinate seniors as soon as they complete vaccinating their frontline workers, according to information posted on Florida’s COVID-19 website. 

Some county health departments will only be offering vaccines at specific locations. Other county health departments are expected to send teams into senior living communities, and some regions will employ a hybrid of the two plans. 

Operation Warp Speed is the national plan for vaccine rollout and distribution. Consistent with the Florida state plan, the various phases prioritize nursing home residents, first responders, the elderly and people with multiple comorbidities.

In a Dec. 23, 2020 executive order, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made it clear that the state of Florida is prioritizing: long-term care facility residents and staff; persons 65 years of age and older; health care personnel with direct patient contact; and persons deemed to be extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 by hospital providers. 

The governor's office reported that, as of Dec. 30, 2020, over 175,000 Floridians had received a vaccine for COVID-19. The state was then in its third week of vaccine administration. However, Gov. DeSantis noted that the COVID-19 vaccine supply is currently limited and there is not enough vaccine yet available for the over 4 million seniors in Florida. 

News reports have indicated long lines and busy phone lines as frustrated seniors seek access to the vaccine. At a conference in Delray Beach Dec. 30, Gov. DeSantis called for patience as the national vaccine rollout continues at a slower pace than had been projected. 

“If you have a hospital that is not yet offering it to seniors, they likely will be very soon; they may still be working through their doctors, nurses and other health professionals,” he said. “It’s not going to happen overnight, so please be patient. We want to get as many people access to this as soon as possible and our supply is starting to come at a better rhythm.”

Seniors are advised to check with their county health department and local hospitals to see if they have started offering vaccines to seniors in the community.

The Florida Department of Health in:

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