Florida’s plan to vaccinate the public is getting clearer. When will shipments arrive?
After vaccinating most of their frontline workers, hospital administrators in South Florida spent the days leading up to Christmas developing plans to vaccinate elderly and immunocompromised patients, as well as the elderly in public, on the orders of state officials.
Meanwhile, Florida's logistics center is developing a clearer plan for how these efforts can be expanded to the general public, regardless of age, by setting up vaccination sites similar to government-sponsored COVID testing sites. The sites are operated by district offices of the state health ministry, said Moskowitz.
As these plans take shape, emergency officers are working without a clear idea of how many doses of the two approved vaccines - made by Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna - will come and when.
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Florida now has Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. Can you choose the one you want?
When the first shipments of vaccine doses from these manufacturers arrived in Florida earlier this month, officials at the state emergency management department knew when to expect and they were arriving on time at the state-prepared allocations, said Jared Moskowitz, the agency's director .
"It's been cloudy since then," he said. "How much and when is a moving target" in the federal system for vaccine shipments.
Another wild card is the parsing of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in the upcoming shipments - an unknown part of it must be used for the second round of vaccination for the second dose. Moskowitz said every arm of the federal government had told state officials to use all possible doses in the first round, and there was no risk those second doses would not come through.
"It is unclear whether they will use part of the vaccine that was intended for first-time recipients to fill a gap that may exist for the second shots," he said.
More than 68,000 people have received their first doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, with Miami-Dade and Broward counties leading the state with 12,926 and 10,838 people, respectively.
Vaccinate the public
On Wednesday, Governor Ron DeSantis issued an order directing all vaccination efforts in the next phase to those over the age of 65 and other patients with serious underlying diseases.
On the same day, several hospitals in South Florida began outlining their plans for vaccinating older patients and other seniors. The Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach was the first to announce its plans for people over 75 to be vaccinated first.
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The Jackson Health System, Miami-Dade County's public hospital, said it was following a similar protocol, and Baptist Health South Florida, the area's largest nonprofit hospital system, said it was a little bit further behind but was hard at work to make the policy of the governor.
Madeline Camejo, Baptist's chief pharmacy officer, said the hospital system had vaccinated nearly 4,000 frontline workers and was preparing to search its medical records for the oldest and most at risk to be vaccinated, including those who are brief were treated in his cancer center the new year.
"We are here for our community," said Camejo. "We're planning these [vaccinations] in the next week or two and we're trying to find a place where people can get to us easily."
Moskowitz, the director of the state emergency department, said health officials would be putting vaccination capsules in eight counties next week, likely in large age groups. As shipments continue to arrive in the spring of next year, vaccines will be available from commercial establishments such as CVS, Walgreens, and Publix, according to Moskowitz.
The state emergency director spent the Hanukkah vacation coordinating logistics for vaccine deliveries across the state, including an unexpected discovery that vials of the Pfizer vaccine actually contained extra doses.
"I think there is a good correlation between Hanukkah and the teaching of the Pfizer vaccine," he said. “They only had a little oil and it burned for eight nights. Pfizer told us there was just a little bit of extra vaccine and brought those doses to more people. "
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