Florida wants to ensure that seniors are given priority over the coronavirus vaccine over frontline workers, government Ron DeSantis said Wednesday.
“We want to work to get this out to our elderly population. We think it’s very important to reduce mortality and reduce the number of people who have to be hospitalized because of COVID-19,” DeSantis said.
After a bitter debate, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance recommended that both seniors over 75 and frontline workers – those working in grocery stores, food production, law enforcement or education – get the shot as part of “Phase 1b.”
DeSantis said he would refrain from recommending seniors over 65.
“It makes no sense for someone who’s 42 to jump in front of someone who’s 70,” DeSantis said. “I will make sure that if there is a dose here in Pensacola back to this week, I will have it for an elderly [person]. “
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Healthcare workers and residents in long-term care facilities received vaccines under the CDC’s first priority recommendation.
But the debate erupted among CDC recommendation panel members about who should be next to receive the restricted offer: seniors who are at much greater risk of COVID-19 complications, or frontline workers who do not have the opportunity for social distance.
“Ethical concerns” were reported among the panel, such as the fact that frontline workers are disproportionately minority and low-income. It is often framed as a debate over whether to prioritize limiting the number of deaths or stopping the spread of the virus.
Prior to the panel’s decision, CDC Director Robert Redfield, who ultimately decides whether to approve the option, urged members to prioritize the old.
The former Commissioner for Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Scott Gottlieb.
“If your goal is to maximize the conservation of human life, you would anticipate the vaccine against older Americans,” Gottlieb said recently. “If your goal is to reduce the rate of infection, you will prioritize important employees. So it depends on what effect you are trying to achieve.”
Ultimately, the decision is up to state governors.
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Florida has 4 million people in the over 65 category, DeSantis said, and he advised residents to be patient.
“We do not have enough vaccine to do all 65 years and older in Florida at the moment. We have vaccine doses in the hundreds of thousands,” DeSantis said.
About 70,000 shots were distributed to health workers and the elderly in long-term care facilities, according to the governor, but by the time some county health departments received small amounts of the vaccine, elderly people living independently would begin being inoculated Monday.
Other states are sure to join Florida in bucking CDC recommendations, Texas has already done so. The state announced in its “Phase 1b” that those 65 years and older and those considered high risks with certain medical conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity or cancer.
“This approach ensures that Texans with the most serious risk from COVID-19 can be protected across races and ethnic groups and wherever they work,” said Imelda Garcia, chair of the Texas Vaccine Award Panel, according to The Hill.
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Meanwhile, Massachusetts is putting prisoners and correctional officers in its first round of vaccine recipients along with police officers and firefighters.