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Florida Vaccination Plan Clearer, but When Will it Happen?

While the plans take shape, emergency officials are working without a clear idea of how many doses of the two authorized vaccines — manufactured by Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna — are coming, and when.

by Ben Conarck, The Miami Herald / December 24, 2020
(TNS) - After inoculating the bulk of their front-line workers, South Florida hospital leaders spent the days before Christmas pivoting toward plans to vaccinate older and immuno-compromised patients, as well as seniors in the general public, at the direction of state officials.
Meanwhile, Florida's logistics hub is developing a clearer plan on how to expand those efforts to the public at large, regardless of age, by setting up vaccination sites that will look similar to state-supported COVID testing sites. The sites will be operated by county offices of the state health department, Moskowitz said.
While those plans take shape, emergency officials are working without a clear idea of how many doses of the two authorized vaccines — manufactured by Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna — are coming, and when.
When the first shipments of vaccine doses from those manufacturers arrived in Florida earlier this month, officials at the state Division of Emergency Management knew when to expect them, and they arrived on time in the allotments the state had prepared for, said Jared Moskowitz, the agency's director.
"Since then, it's been cloudier," he said. "As far as how much is arriving and when, that's a moving target" in the federal system for vaccine shipments.
Another wildcard is the parsing of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in the upcoming shipments — an unknown portion of which will need to be used for second doses for the first round of inoculations. Moskowitz said every arm of the federal government told state officials to expense all the doses they could in the first round, and there was no risk of those second doses not coming through.
"What is unclear is whether they will use some of the vaccine that was designated for first-shot recipients in order 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.
Vaccinating the public
On Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order directing all vaccination efforts in the next phase to go toward people over age 65 and other patients with severe underlying conditions.
That same day, several South Florida hospitals started to sketch out their plans for vaccinating older patients and other senior citizens, with Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach the first to declare its plans, which involve vaccinating people over 75 first.
Jackson Health System, Miami-Dade County's public hospital, said it was following a similar protocol, and Baptist Health South Florida, the region's largest nonprofit hospital system, said it was a little further behind but was working diligently to abide by the governor's directive.
Madeline Camejo, Baptist's chief pharmacy officer, said the hospital system has inoculated nearly 4,000 front-line workers and was preparing to start scouring its patient records for the oldest and most vulnerable people to inoculate, including those receiving treatment at its cancer center, shortly after the new year.
"We're here for our community," Camejo said. "We're planning those [inoculations] in the next week or two, and we're trying to figure out a place where it's easy for people to get to us."
Moskowitz, the state's emergency division director, said health officials would be setting up vaccination pods in eight counties next week, likely in large retirement communities. As more and more shipments come in, toward the spring next year, Moskowitz said vaccines will be available at commercial operations like CVS, Walgreens and Publix.
The state emergency director spent the Hanukkah holiday coordinating logistics for vaccine shipments across the state, including an unexpected discovery that vials of the Pfizer vaccine actually contained extra doses.
"I think there's a good correlation between Hanukkah and the lesson of the Pfizer vaccine," he said. "They had just a little bit of oil, and it burned for eight nights. Pfizer told us there was just a little bit of extra vaccine, and got those doses to more people."
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