Advisors for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention formally recommend health care personnel and long-term care residents be among the very first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
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But ultimately, the decisions on distribution will be in the hands of the states, meaning Gov. Ron DeSantis will likely have the final say here in Florida.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted 13 to 1 to put both groups in the very first tier to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but not without some concerns.
Keipp Talbot, an associate professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, who specializes in adult vaccines, was the committee’s lone hold out. Talbot expressed apprehension over vaccinating the vulnerable long-term care (LTC) population first, not just because vaccine trials didn’t include them, but because of the already high mortality rate in these facilities.
“I think the concern is that older adults in nursing homes have lots of things that happen to them. Falls, urinary tract infections, heart attacks that will be temporarily associated with vaccines. But not caused by vaccine,” Talbot said, adding that could affect much needed public confidence in the vaccine.
Spectrum News reached out to DeSantis’s office for a response to these concerns. We didn’t hear back until Wednesday evening when his office sent a pre-recorded message confirming the plan to put LTC residents ahead of healthcare workers.
“Florida is going to prioritize as follows: our top priority will be our residents of our LTC facilities,” the message said. “They are at the greatest risk and this vaccine could have a tremendously positive impact on them.”
For weeks, DeSantis has said long-term care residents will be the state’s priority for the initial COVID-19 vaccine distribution, at times even leaving healthcare personnel out of the conversation all together. On Tuesday, a post on the governor’s Facebook page doubled down on that plan:
“The top priority for vaccine allocation should be to residents of long-term care facilities (LTCs). Residents of LTCs are by far the most likely demographic to die with COVID and the mitigation efforts undertaken by LTCs have dramatically reduced the quality of life for LTC residents. Vaccinating LTC residents first will reduce mortality with COVID significantly and will allow these facilities to return to normal operations, thereby reducing loneliness, despair and the failure to thrive. The goal should be to protect life, and to make life for our LTC residents a life worth living”
Desantis has said Florida will likely receive 1-2 million of the 40 million vaccines set to roll out nationwide by the end of the year. In a message to Floridians, posted on his Facebook page last week, DeSantis said he plans to distribute those doses to long-term care residents through The Pharmacy Partnership for Long-Term Care Program, which is an agreement between the federal government and CVS and Walgreens.
DeSantis said already, 3,000 of the state’s 4,000 long-term care facilities have signed up.