Florida will continue to target elderly population for COVID vaccine — despite advice from CDC panel

By: - December 21, 2020 4:49 pm

Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Dec. 21, 2020, that an advisory committee for the CDC made a “huge mistake” recommending that essential workers should be next to receive COVID-19 over some older people. Also shown is Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. Source: Screenshot/Florida Channel

Despite a federal advisory committee’s recommendation to prioritize front-line workers alongside people in the general public aged 75 and up in the next phase of COVID-19 vaccinations, Gov. Ron DeSantis will focus those future doses on elderly Floridians.

DeSantis called the recommendations a “huge mistake.”

“The problem with that — as I see it — is that a 22-year-old food-service worker would get a vaccine over a 74-year-old grandmother,” he said Monday. “I don’t think that [the recommendation] is an appropriate calculation of the relative risk there.”

The governor reasons that older people who contract COVID are more likely to die from it.

“The fact is, the mortality among the essential workers is a fraction of what it is in the senior population,” DeSantis said. “So, the more you’re able to provide the protection to senior citizens, the less stress you have on hospitals and, obviously, the more lives you’re going to save.”

He added: “If you took a 25-year-old sheriff’s deputy somewhere in Florida and said ‘I have one vaccine, do you want it or should I give it to your parents or grandparents, who may be over 70?’ I think 99 percent of them would say ‘No, give it to the grandparents.'”

As of Monday, the Florida Department of Health reported 1,181,549 COVID-19 infections and 20,568 deaths of residents.

Florida began vaccinating for COVID-19 last week, prioritizing front-line health-care workers and then residents and staff at long-term care facilities. During a press conference Wednesday, he said that his next priority for vaccinations could be people in the age 65-and-up population.

Over the weekend, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, comprising health experts, voted to recommend that both front-line essential workers and people aged 75 and up be prioritized in the next round of COVID vaccinations.

Front-line workers who would receive vaccinations next under that approach could include police, firefighters, educators, and grocery store workers.

However, states are not required to follow the recommendations.

DeSantis pointed during a news conference Monday in Miami-Dade County to Florida’s large number of elderly residents.

“I mean, we have one of the highest percentages of 70 and plus in the country, and so I think people would understand why we would want to do that.”

He said that he would release details of his plans on Tuesday.

DeSantis described the next few shipments of COVID vaccines due in Florida in the next few days, although he left the details vague. He said he expected around 61,000 doses of the newly approved Moderna vaccine by the end of Monday with another 300,000 the next day, all destined for 170 hospitals.

In addition, DeSantis said that Florida will receive “about 120,000 — somewhere in that range” doses of Pfizer vaccine by Tuesday.

Between Pfizer and the Moderna vaccine, the state could receive “maybe another 750,000 doses by the end of the month, maybe a little bit more,” DeSantis said. “Then hopefully, a million and a half to two million doses January — that can do a lot, in the sense of the 70 and plus population.”

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Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown

Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University. She has served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine and Rowland Publishing. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat.