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How will Florida distribute COVID-19 vaccines?

Higher-risk groups of people will be among the first to have access to the vaccines, according to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — In anticipation of FDA approval of both Pfizer and Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines, Florida has outlined a distribution plan.

In a video update, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he believes Pfizer will get approval in early December with Moderna not far behind. Ahead of the expected emergency use authorization in the United States, Florida's governor explained the state's priority list for distribution.

"Of course Florida, we want to get as much vaccine for our citizens as possible, but we know we will not, nor will any state, have enough to vaccinate everyone right off the bat. So, we've had to set priorities," DeSantis said.

According to DeSantis, the first doses will go to:

  1. People in long-term care facilities
  2. High-risk frontline health care workers
  3. Those 65 and up and anyone with significant comorbidities

The distribution priority list DeSantis outlined is a variation on the COVID-19 vaccination plan template, provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in mid-October and posted to the Florida Department of Health's website, to help local governments develop their vaccine plans. 

"While these instructions may help guide plan development, they are not comprehensive, and jurisdictions are reminded to carefully review the CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook for Jurisdiction Operations as well as other CDC guidance and resources when developing their plans," the 51-page document said.

> Click here to read Florida's draft of its COVID-19 vaccination plan.
> Click here for drafts of COVID-19 vaccination plans for other states.

Generally speaking, this phased distribution concept is consistent with the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Interim Playbook published by the CDC on Oct. 29.

DeSantis stressed that no one will be forced to get vaccinated. He also asked Floridians to be patient and aware that while a specific number of doses may arrive in the state, each vaccine requires two doses -- cutting the supply in half.

"So, if we end up getting a certain number of doses. you have to cut that in half for the number of individuals who will be vaccinated since each person requires two doses," he said.

Going forward, DeSantis says he believes that Johnson & Johnson's vaccine is promising to come into circulation next. If that is the case, the governor projects that by February, the state could have enough doses for widespread vaccination.

"Distributing a vaccine across a large and diverse state is a big challenge, but this is a major priority for the state of Florida," the governor said.

Here are three key points from Florida's vaccination plan outline posted online:

  1. The state is approaching coronavirus vaccination planning using a framework that is based on lessons learned from dealing with H1N1, the seasonal flu, and a recent Hepatitis A vaccination program. That framework includes efforts to streamline the enrollment process into the state's vaccine administration system, so vaccine providers can be expanded more quickly. It also included having Florida's 67 county health departments do a vaccine administration exercise to focus on maximizing the number of vaccinations that could happen daily while still focusing on social distancing other key precautions.
  2. A modified state incident command structure has been established with medical experts to prepare for large-scale vaccine distribution. Planners are focused on key tasks, including: enrolling new vaccine providers, expanding vaccine programs for children and adults and preparing Florida’s Immunization Information System. (See page 4)
  3. Florida will have a time-phased strategy to distribution that's broken into three phases. With limited doses early in the process, long-term care facilities and frontline workers will be prioritized. As more vaccines become available, mass vaccination clinics are expected to open, along with retail provider vaccination sites. (See page 11)

> Click here for drafts of COVID-19 vaccination plans for other states.

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