Gov. DeSantis pushes ahead on vaccines in long-term care facilities, saying, ‘We didn’t want to see delays’

DeSantis visits John Knox Village of Pompano Beach to announce COVID-19 vaccines available at some South Florida long-term care facilities. Source: Screenshot from the Florida Channel

Gov. Ron DeSantis has directed the Florida Department of Health and the Division of Emergency Management to begin vaccinating residents of long-term care facilities starting Wednesday — ahead of the plans of CVS and Walgreens to begin vaccinating those populations by Monday.

“We wanted to cut through bureaucracy,” the governor announced in a news conference Wednesday. “We didn’t want to see delays.” The press conference was held at John Knox Village of Pompano Beach, a Retirement & Assisted Living Facility in Broward County.

DeSantis said the residents of some long-term care facilities in South Florida would be able to receive the Pfizer vaccine starting Wednesday. The governor did not identify the individual facilities at the news conference.

CVS and Walgreens were scheduled to roll out 60,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccines to long-term care facilities starting Monday.

“We were not happy with that wait,” DeSantis said.

He said there are 21,450 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to be split between 112 long-term care facilities in Broward and Pinellas counties. He also said that six nursing homes in Miami-Dade County will be receiving some vaccines.

The vaccine will be available for “both the staff and the residents — not mandated, of course,” according to DeSantis.

As of Wednesday, the Florida Department of Health reported 1,155,335 COVID-19 infections and 20,204 deaths of residents.

Jared Moskowitz, the Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, spoke at the conference and emphasized that the COVID vaccines in long-term care facilities will make it safer for residents to see their families and visitors.

“It wasn’t just COVID that struck the long term care facilities – it was isolation,” Moskowitz said. “This is the beginning of the end of all of that — for these people who have had to suffer from being alone, and the mental health impacts of that, in their elder years.”

DeSantis noted that COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities have been on the rise across Florida.

As for future shipments of vaccines, DeSantis said that Florida will receive some more Pfizer vaccines next week, though it is not yet clear how many doses will be available. The state will likely receive 367,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine.

The vaccinations going to long-term care facilities are only a small percentage of what would need to vaccinate millions of residents of Florida.

A resident of John Knox elder care received the Pfizer vaccine at the press conference. She did not receive a formal introduction from the governor, but a voice from off camera introduced the female resident.

As soon as she received the vaccine, DeSantis offered to escort her back into the long-term care facility and he did not take press questions.

DeSantis wore a mask off and on during the press conference. At the podium, he did not have a mask on.