DeSantis says vaccines are best tool against COVID; but how’s FL doing on the vaccination front?

By: and - August 30, 2021 6:39 pm

A Florida doctor was among the first to receive a dose of Moderna COVID vaccine in late December 2020. Screenshot/The Florida Channel

Back in December, Gov. Ron DeSantis prioritized the elderly population for COVID-19 vaccines, a strategy that went against the status quo and pushed for seniors to get the shots first.

Eight months later, CDC data show that 82.1 percent of Florida residents 65 and older are fully vaccinated, slightly higher than the national average. Florida ranks 26th of the 50 states and Washington, D.C.

That means 25 other states did better when it came to vaccinating the elderly, according to the data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Northeast states such as Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine and Connecticut are in the 90-percent-and-higher category for residents age 65 and older who are fully vaccinated in their states. Those are smaller-population states with fewer vaccine doses, but even some big states show higher percentages than Florida.

In Pennsylvania, 85.9 percent of 65+ residents have been fully vaccinated; New York’s number is 82.4 percent. New Jersey is at  85 percent, and Ohio had a slightly higher figure than Florida.

Meanwhile, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday continued to traverse the state to raise awareness of monoclonal antibodies therapy being offered as a COVID treatment for free at 21 sites in Florida and counting.

But while the governor focused on promoting treatment after a person becomes ill, he also reminded listeners that vaccination is the best tool for avoiding infection and fighting the spread.

He did not mention masking — and no one visible in broadcasts of his three indoor press conferences was wearing a face mask or practicing significant distancing.

DeSantis said getting vaccinated is the most effective way to protect oneself from the Delta-variant wave of COVID raging in Florida, but he recommended monoclonal antibodies therapy for people who get sick from not getting vaccinated or from contracting the more transmissible Delta variant in “breakthrough” cases that overcome currently available vaccine protection. (Booster shots are just becoming available on a limited basis).

“If you’re at risk, the best thing you can do beforehand, obviously, is to get vaccinated. But even if you are, and if you’re not, if you do become COVID-positive, you have an opportunity to get early treatment using these monoclonal antibodies,” DeSantis said at a press conference in Tampa.

“This is not in lieu of [vaccination]. It’s in addition to.”

The three press conferences featured testimonials from COVID patients who said they were successfully treated with monoclonal antibodies, including Toma Dean, a Jacksonville woman seen in a widely circulated photograph lying crumpled on the floor after arriving at a clinic site to be treated. Dean did not mention her vaccination status.

But overall, with vaccine shots widely available, Florida is at 52.6 percent for total population fully vaccinated.

Florida ranks 22nd among the states and the District of Columbia in that category. Florida is among 25 states and the District of Columbia in terms those states that 50 percent and higher.

Vermont, at 67.8 percent, has the highest figure for the percent of the total population fully vaccinated. The smallest figure is Mississippi, at 37.7 percent.

DeSantis also said COVID hospitalizations and visits to emergency departments have begun to decline, suggesting early treatment with monoclonal antibodies may be helping with that.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of monoclonal antibodies therapy under an emergency authorization.  Some but not all brands have been shown to reduce the severity of infections and improve recovery times even in Delta-variant cases. The therapy does not keep people infected with COVID from transmitting it.

Here’s a list of states related to 65 + populations and fully-vaccinated residents:

State Percent of 65+ Pop Fully Vaccinated by State of Residence
Vermont 94.3
Rhode Island 92.9
Maine 92.3
Connecticut 91.2
Wisconsin 89.3
Maryland 89.2
Washington 88.4
Minnesota 88.2
New Mexico 87.9
Massachusetts 87.8
New Hampshire 87.5
South Dakota 87.5
Iowa 87.4
Nebraska 86.8
Delaware 86
Pennsylvania 85.9
Hawaii 85.4
New Jersey 85
Oregon 84.6
Virginia 83.7
Kansas 82.8
Michigan 82.7
Indiana 82.7
New York State 82.4
Ohio 82.3
Florida 82.1
Colorado 81.9
Utah 81.7
Kentucky 81.4
District of Columbia 80.8
Louisiana 79.9
Montana 79.2
Alaska 79
California 78.8
Idaho 78.8
Texas 78.6
South Carolina 78.5
North Carolina 78.3
Oklahoma 78
Illinois 76.8
Missouri 76.8
Nevada 76
Arizona 75.7
North Dakota 75.7
Tennessee 75.5
Wyoming 74.8
Mississippi 74.7
Georgia 73.8
Alabama 72.3
West Virginia 70.8
Arkansas 70.4

Here’s a list of states related to overall total populations and fully-vaccinated residents:

State Percent of Total Pop Fully Vaccinated by State of Residence
Vermont 67.8
Connecticut 65.8
Massachusetts 65.8
Maine 65.6
Rhode Island 64.6
Maryland 61.3
New Jersey 61.3
Washington 60
New Mexico 59.9
New York State 59.9
New Hampshire 59.6
Oregon 57.9
District of Columbia 57.2
Virginia 57
Colorado 56.8
Minnesota 55.8
California 55.7
Hawaii 55.2
Delaware 55.1
Pennsylvania 55
Wisconsin 53.9
Florida 52.6
Nebraska 51.9
Iowa 51.5
Illinois 51
Michigan 50.4
South Dakota 49.1
Ohio 48.3
Kentucky 48.3
Kansas 48.1
Arizona 47.7
Nevada 47.6
Utah 47.5
Texas 47.2
Alaska 47.1
Indiana 46.2
North Carolina 46.2
Montana 45.9
Missouri 45
Oklahoma 43.6
South Carolina 43.1
North Dakota 41.7
Tennessee 41.5
Louisiana 41.4
Arkansas 41.3
Georgia 41.2
West Virginia 39.6
Idaho 39.1
Wyoming 38.4
Alabama 37.9
Mississippi 37.7

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Laura Cassels
Laura Cassels

Laura Cassels is a reporter, former statehouse bureau chief, and former city editor. She is a classical pianist, a Florida State University graduate and proud alum of the Florida Flambeau, an independent college newspaper. Contact her at [email protected]

Diane Rado
Diane Rado

Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.