DeSantis says nursing homes will be 1st to get COVID vaccine

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Residents in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities will be the first to get a coronavirus vaccine when Florida begins receiving it later this month, Gov. Ron DeSantis said.

DeSantis’ priorities, announced in in a video Wednesday evening, largely reflect the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We want to get as much vaccine for our citizens as possible, but we know we will not, nor will any state, have enough to vaccinate everyone right off the bat,” DeSantis said in the three-minute video.

He said long-term care residents are most vulnerable to the virus.

“They are at the greatest risk and this vaccine can have a tremendously positive impact on them. No. 2 will be health care workers who are in high-risk and high-contact environments. And No. 3, to the extent we have enough, we want to start getting it out to the broader 65 and over communities as well as those who have significant comorbidities,” DeSantis said.

The Florida Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, praised DeSantis for putting long-term care facilities at the top of the priority list.

“We all recognize how challenging the pandemic has been for our long term caregivers, residents, and their families. We also know that a vaccine is the best path for returning to some sense of normalcy,” association executive director Emmett Reed said in a prepared statement.

Through Tuesday, there have been 7,376 confirmed deaths from the virus among residents and staff at long-term care facilities. Overall, COVID-19 is blamed for more than 19,000 deaths in Florida and more than 1 million confirmed infections.

DeSantis stressed that the state will not force anyone to take the vaccine.

“While we will encourage and we want to make available the vaccine, no one will be mandated to take the vaccine,” DeSantis said.