Florida will ensure that older people who do not live in long-term care facilities are the first members of the general public to receive doses of a coronavirus vaccine, Gov. Ron DeSantisThe Ron DeSantisRepublican club Christmas party in Queens goes viral for the conga line. Florida health scientist Ousted files suit for state invasion of her UK home pressures White House to lift travel ban: report MORE (R) said Wednesday.
During a news conference, DeSantis said he plans to sign an executive order that will prioritize seniors over 65 for the next doses, rather than essential workers.
“We want to work to bring this to our elderly population. We think it is very important to reduce mortality by reducing the number of people who need to be hospitalized for COVID-19,” said DeSantis.
The measure breaks with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which recommended that people over 75, as well as essential non-health workers, such as police, grocery workers, teachers, and slaughterhouse employees receive the vaccine as part of “phase 1b”.
The CDC prioritized health professionals and nursing home residents in the first round of vaccinations, and most states have adopted the same guidelines.
But with limited doses, states and public health officials are being forced to ration vaccines for very specific populations.
Some states describe specific subgroups in their plans, while others rely on frontline employers, such as hospitals, to make determinations of who should be at the front of the line.
Regardless of priorities, vaccinations take time.
Florida has more than 4 million people over the age of 65, said DeSantis, and advised people to be patient.
“We don’t have enough vaccine to serve everyone 65 and over in Florida right now. We have vaccine doses in the hundreds of thousands,” said DeSantis.
DeSantis said he does not want to prioritize vaccinating younger people, even if they have “essential” jobs, over older people.
“It doesn’t make sense for a 42-year-old to jump ahead of a 70-year-old,” said DeSantis. “I want to make sure that if I have a dose left here in Pensacola for this week, I want it to go to an elderly person [person]. “
DeSantis said that as soon as a hospital finishes vaccinating frontline health workers, attention should be given immediately to older people over 65.
He did not give a timetable for when this could be done, but noted that since some county health departments are starting to receive small amounts of vaccines, they will start in the group of 65 or older as early as next Monday.
So far, about 70,000 injections have been administered to health professionals and seniors at the front lines in long-term care facilities in Florida, said DeSantis.
Florida is not alone in breaking the CDC’s guidance for the second round of vaccinations, but states need not follow what the agency recommends. There is no federal mandate on vaccination priorities.
For example, Texas announced this week that it is also prioritizing those 65 and over in “phase 1b”, but also those who are considered to be at high risk because of certain medical conditions, such as cancer, obesity, heart disease or diabetes type 2.
“Focusing on people aged 65 or over or with comorbidities will protect the most vulnerable populations,” said Imelda Garcia, president of the Texas vaccine allocation panel and associate commissioner for laboratory services and infectious diseases at the Texas Department of State Services of health.
“This approach ensures that Texans at the greatest risk of COVID-19 can be protected across races and ethnicities and regardless of where they work,” said Garcia
The state is not prioritizing teachers, agricultural workers or other “essential” workers until there is more supply.
Massachusetts is placing prisoners and prison officers in its first round of vaccine containers because they work and live in congregated environments. The first round will include first responders, such as police and firefighters, as well as health professionals.
“It’s easy to do, discount the value of prisoners. But they are in crowded environments. The virus comes in, they don’t have many options. They are indebted to their handlers,” said John Grabenstein, general manager of the Vaccine Dynamics consultancy .
Experts say it is not unreasonable for states to deviate from what the CDC recommends, and they understand that officials are struggling with thorny ethical issues.
States value different populations – some prioritize stopping the spread of the virus, while others prioritize limiting the number of deaths. More states are expected to deviate from the CDC’s suggestions in the future.
“I think that speaks to the dilemma of how to balance these things simultaneously with limited doses, the risk of exposure and its consequences, versus … morbidity and mortality,” said Bruce Gellin, president of global immunization at the Sabin Vaccine Institute.
“With limited supply, I think that’s why governors welcome the overall structure. They can work within it, or maybe choose differently, but at least that’s the starting point,” said Gellin.