FL Nursing Homes Start To Give COVID-19 Vaccines To Residents

Skyla Luckey

POMPANO BEACH, FL — Senior citizens at a long-term care facility in Pompano Beach were among the first nursing home residents in the state of Florida to receive coronavirus vaccinations. Wednesday's immunizations are the start of a statewide rollout that will take months to reach most Florida residents.

Gov. Ron DeSantis held a news conference at Knox Village, the long-term care facility where the vaccines were administered. Last week, DeSantis said 21,450 doses of Pfizer will be split between nursing homes in Broward and Pinellas. According to DeSantis, both counties have a high number of these facilities, and he chose them as the pilot vaccination program.

"Today marks what ... is the first state to be administering vaccines inside long-term care facilities," DeSantis said.

DeSantis said that CVS and Walgreens workers will likely administer vaccines at facilities starting Monday through a contract with the federal government.

The Florida Department of Health reported an 11,541 increase in positive coronavirus cases Wednesday with a total of 1,155,335 statewide; hospitalizations are 58,969; and coronavirus-related deaths are 20,490.

Positive cases reported Wednesday including long-term care residents since March, according to the FDOH, are 1,926 out of 138,309 total residents.

Broward and Pinellas counties will serve as two of the first Florida counties taking part in a pilot coronavirus vaccination effort to distribute Pfizer-BioNTech immunizations to residents and health care workers at skilled nursing facilities.

This initial distribution of vaccines to protect Florida's most vulnerable residents follows the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Long-term care residents and health care personnel are included in Phase 1 of the Florida vaccine distribution plan.

DeSantis previously said 112 facilities between Pinellas and Broward within the next week will administer vaccinations to senior residents. In addition to residents, staff members can get the vaccines. The vaccines are not mandated at these facilities or in the state of Florida.

The state has partnered with six nursing homes in Miami-Dade, and he has allocated some vaccines to the Florida Department of Health and Florida National Guard EMS personnel to give doses to the nursing home communities. DeSantis hopes to get an emergency use authorization by Friday night.

According to the governor, another 367,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine are coming to Florida soon.

"Those will start shipping this weekend," DeSantis said. "We will then have it. We only have five hospitals allowed to get the Pfizer. Now that's going to be spread wide throughout the state."

Pinellas County has 38,783 positive cases, according to the FDOH. Hillsborough has 67,060 cases; Polk has 31,996 cases; Pasco has 18,385 cases; Sarasota has 16,189 cases; Manatee has 19,389 cases; and Dade has 264,673 cases.

Two teams, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, have submitted requests for review of their vaccines. Both brands require two doses.

The Pfizer-BioNTech shots must be separated by three weeks. Moderna's injections have to be four weeks apart.

The Food and Drug Administration authorized Pfizer-BioNTech's immunization on Friday. The FDA will review Moderna's on Thursday. The agency could clear Moderna's inoculation within days of its briefing.

"The COVID-19 vaccine is a sign of hope as we address this pandemic in Florida," said Dr. Paula Thaqi, director of the Florida Department of Health in Broward County. "We are still encouraging residents and visitors to take common-sense precautions to protect themselves from the spread of the virus. These include frequent handwashing, wearing masks, maintaining 6 feet of social distancing and staying home if you are feeling sick."

This article originally appeared on the St. Pete Patch