As some areas in the United States continue to push through life-threatening cold weather and power outages, the severe winter weather has impacted COVID vaccine distribution to Florida.
“Its not a great day here in Florida, weather-wise, but it’s a heck of a lot worse in other parts of the country,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis at a Wednesday press conference in Manatee County. “So vaccine shipments are being delayed.”
According to DeSantis, most of the shipment of the Pfizer vaccine was unaffected by the weather, with about 136,000 doses arriving as expected and about 9,000 doses on the way.
The same cannot be said for the Moderna vaccine shipment.
DeSantis explained that an entire shipment of 200,000 Moderna vaccines has yet to come. He hopes that the shipment will arrive Thursday or Friday, though it originally was expected Tuesday.
DeSantis, for example, referenced Memphis as delivery point for vaccines. Currently, Wednesday’s weather in Memphis has freezing temperatures and snow.
While both vaccines are similar in that they require two doses for full effectiveness, they have different storage requirements.
The Pfizer vaccine has to be stored at extremely low temperatures, and some distribution sites might not have the resources to keep the vaccine so cold. Moderna is a bit easier to store, because it’s kept in normal freezers.
DeSantis also said he instructed the Florida Division of Emergency Management to work with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to potentially set up large-scale vaccination sites around the state.
“We say ‘look we want more doses, however you want to do it,'” DeSantis said. “I’ve been very clear that the easiest thing is to just send us more [vaccines] because we have the infrastructure. If they want to come in and set up, and they’re doing more doses above our current allotment, we obviously want to participate in that — because we want as many doses as possible.”
Florida residents who are frontline healthcare workers, aged 65 and older, and under 65 with significant health complications are still prioritized for vaccine distribution.
DeSantis said that they are waiting for demand to drop from the elderly population to expand vaccine accessibility. That said, there are 4.5-million residents age 65 and older in Florida.
DeSantis said he hopes that the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine will make a difference. Health officials and other experts later this month will review whether Johnson & Johnson will be able to provide the vaccines under emergency use authorization, according to the federal government.
As of Feb. 16, 2,430,637 people have been vaccinated, according to the Florida Department of Health. Of that total, 1,820,440 are residents 65 and older.