TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Seniors in Florida will get their second dose of a coronavirus vaccine, Gov. Ron DeSantis declared Tuesday, even as frustration grows nationally over spotty supplies of the life-saving medicine.
Later in the day, President Biden announced that states would get a roughly 16% increase in deliveries over the coming weeks, allowing more Floridians to get a shot in the arm against a disease that has infected 100 million worldwide and killed almost 2.2 million, including more than 424,000 in the U.S. and 25,600 in Florida.
The rise in shipments translates to 307,000 first doses and 254,000 booster shots for Florida, according to the state health department. While good news for those waiting to get inoculated, it surely won’t satiate the demand for the vaccine — even if the increased shipment does help ease concerns about the availability of the vaccine for the growing number awaiting booster shots.
Of the more than 1.4 million in Florida who have gotten shots, less than 11% have gotten their second dose, according to the latest records provided by the state Health Department. That means more than a million people — most of them at least 65 years old — are coming due for the second of two shots required to achieve the highest level of efficacy against the disease.
“You’re going to start seeing more and more second doses administered,” the governor said during a Tuesday morning news conference in Vero Beach, one of numerous appearances across the state the governor has made in recent weeks to tout his record against the COVID-19 outbreak.
“A lot of the distributions that are going to start to go will be those second doses,” he said.
The recommended interval between doses for the Pfizer vaccine is three weeks, while the waiting period for the Moderna vaccine is four weeks.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests the state should have enough doses on hand to deliver those booster shots. To date, Florida has received almost 3.1 million doses of the two vaccines approved for use against the coronavirus.
On Monday, the Republican governor complained that Florida was “at the mercy of what the federal government sends us.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded in a later briefing that Florida had distributed about half of its stock of vaccines. “Clearly they have a good deal of the vaccine,” she said.
During his Tuesday morning news conference, then later on social media, the governor remarked that “the insinuation that Florida is underutilizing vaccines is totally disingenuous.”
Florida’s rate of vaccine administration versus distribution mirrors the national figure, at about 53%. It’s higher than California’s 45%, but lower than New York’s 57%, according to the CDC.
Vaccines aren’t necessarily administered immediately upon receiving them from the federal government. The state governments must dole out those doses among a network of vaccination sites in both the private and public sector throughout the state, where they must be scheduled for patients. Additionally, there can be a lag time of several days before the administered doses are reported to authorities.
DeSantis boasted Tuesday that Florida has the highest rate of inoculations per capita among the country’s 10 most populous states. The state has vaccinated 6.5% of its population, according to CDC figures. In comparison, New York has a rate of 6.3%, and California, 5%. Some less densely populated states have much higher rates of vaccinations: Alaska has reached 11% and in West Virginia, 9.2% of the population has received at least one dose of the vaccine.
He also bragged that the state had now vaccinated at least 1 million seniors — a milestone he claimed prematurely on Friday when he said a 100-year-old World War II veteran was the state’s 1 millionth senior to be vaccinated. He later walked the claim back because state data did not support it.
It would be difficult to ascertain when the millionth shot was given and to whom because of lags in reporting. But DeSantis has been barnstorming the state to promote his “Seniors First” initiative, which has had the dual purpose of prioritizing the state’s most vulnerable demographic and currying favor with a voting bloc that will be crucial to his expected bid for reelection.
As of Sunday, the most recent day for which data is available, Florida had vaccinated nearly 970,000 seniors, according to data from the state health department.
All together, 1.6 million Floridians have been infected with the virus, with about 9,500 new cases reported on Monday.