FILE – COVID-19 vaccine trials

(The Center Square) – Florida’s proposed mass inoculation plan calls for rapid deployment of COVID-19 vaccines to the state’s 4,000-plus nursing homes and long-term care centers beginning in late December.

Gov. Ron DeSantis confirmed Florida is set to deliver vaccines first to the state’s 500,000 health care workers and then to nursing home long-term care center residents as soon as they are available.

“Our goal will be to provide vaccines to every resident of long-term care facilities throughout the state,” DeSantis said. “In Florida, we are going to set priorities focusing on specifically those most vulnerable, elderly residents in long-term care facilities, as well as our front line health care workers who are interacting with vulnerable patients day in and day out.”

CVS Senior Vice President of Pharmacy Growth Chris Cox and Walgreens Vice President of Specialty Pharmacy Luke Sauter said they’re ready to assist in distributing vaccines to long-term care centers, DeSantis said.

“They assured me as soon as they have the vaccine in hand, they are ready to deploy to Florida’s over-4,000 long-term care facilities to begin vaccinating the residents,” the governor said. “Fortunately, more than 3,000 long-term care facilities have already signed up. And our goal will be to provide vaccines to every resident of long-term care facilities throughout the state.”

DeSantis said Pfizer’s vaccine is expected to receive emergency authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Dec. 10, “and we anticipate the FDA to review Moderna’s vaccine shortly thereafter.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates it will have 40 million vaccines ready for distribution by late December. Since being inoculated requires two doses, DeSantis said, up to 20 million Americans could be vaccinated initially.

Florida’s draft COVID-19 Vaccination Plan awaits approval from the CDC. According to the plan, the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) “is approaching COVID-19 vaccination planning using an integrated planning structure based on lessons learned from the H1N1 pandemic, seasonal influenza vaccination activities and the recent Hepatitis A vaccination program.”

The draft anticipated logistical hurdles in distributing the vaccine and outlined messaging strategies to contend with misinformation and skepticism.

Under the draft plan, the first vaccines will be issued to “health care personnel likely to be exposed to or treat people with COVID-19; those at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, including those with underlying medical conditions; and other essential workers,” the FDOH said, estimating 497,000 licensed health care professionals could be among first recipients.

The FDOH’s proposed phase two allocation will issue vaccines to 223,000 staff and 145,000 residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities across the state.

This second phase also will seek to identify those with vulnerable medical conditions and disabilities – potentially as many as 2.7 million Floridians.

The final distribution will be for the general public. The FDOH plans to create mass vaccination clinics run by county health departments “to supplement vaccination efforts and to increase capacity in community-based settings.” Community health clinics and hospitals will be utilized.

While the vaccine roll out will last into at least March, DeSantis said he’s set aside 500,000 rapid tests for Florida’s long-term care facilities and touted the FDA’s emergency authorization of Regeneron, “a new monoclonal antibody therapy meant for those most vulnerable to COVID” that is “on its way to hospitals throughout the state.”

“As we anxiously await the vaccine, I think it’s important to double down on protecting our most vulnerable, particularly our vulnerable seniors in long-term care facilities,” he said. “If we can redouble our efforts to protect the most vulnerable until the vaccine is deployed, we will help safeguard the lives of thousands of Floridians.”