Florida will receive nearly 180,000 initial doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and expects to speed them to long-term care residents and health care workers within the week, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday.
The precise number was 179,400 doses, of which the governor has earmarked 60,450 to CVS and Walgreens for distribution to nursing homes and 21,450 doses for teams representing the Florida Department of Health, the Division of Emergency Management, and the Florida National Guard for the same population.
Another 97,500 doses will go to hospitals for health care staff working closely with COVID patients.
At last word, Florida had seen nearly 1.1 million coronavirus infections, 57,468 hospitalizations, and 19,591 resident deaths.
DeSantis made the announcement in a video around 5 p.m., as a panel of independent experts in Washington, D.C., advised the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve the Pfizer vaccine for people aged 16 and above.
Some 40 million doses are available at present; because two doses are necessary a few weeks apart, that means a target audience of 20 million among 330 million Americans.
A Kaiser Family Foundation study identified 1,062,700 Floridians who’d be eligible for the vaccine under this protocol, including 991,500 health care workers and 71,200 nursing home patients out of an adult population of 1.68 million.
That leaves 6.3 percent of the adult population eligible at first — a little drop in a big ocean.
DeSantis, who insists the vaccine will not be mandatory, acknowledged as much in a video in which he announced the development.
“We are working to get as much vaccine for our citizens as possible, but Florida will not, nor will any state, have enough to vaccinate everyone right off the bat,” he said.
“Our top priority is residents of long-term care facilities. They are at the greatest risk and this vaccine could have a positive impact on them, not just protecting them from COVID, but allowing them to return to a more normal life,” DeSantis said.
“Finally, as the vaccine supply increases over the next few weeks, we want to start getting it out to our elderly residents as well as those who may have significant comorbidities, making them high-risk for complications from COVID-19.”
Data show reluctance to take the shot among segments of Florida’s population, particularly African Americans who distrust the medical establishment at rates higher than the general population because of abuses in the past.
However, a Pew Research Center poll released on Dec. 3 suggested that more than 60 percent of respondents definitely or probably would take the vaccine if one were available, an increase from 51 percent in September.