Florida Officials Start Looking Ahead to Distributing a COVID-19 Vaccine

Florida officials are getting ready for the COVID-19 vaccine as they looked ahead to it being approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis offered an update on the matter after speaking with federal officials and executives from CVS and Walgreens.

“In recent days we’ve seen more breakthroughs in the fight against COVID-19,” DeSantis said. “Regeneron – a new monoclonal antibody therapy meant for those most vulnerable to COVID – has received its emergency use authorization and is now on its way to hospitals throughout the state.

“This effectively doubles the supply of Bamlan – Eli Lilly’s monoclonal antibody treatment that arrived at hospitals just over a week ago. Like Bamlan, Regeneron will be administered by IV, and should be taken shortly after receiving a positive test. Both treatments are meant to keep people out of the hospital. In addition to Bamlan and Regeneron, Eli Lilly just received EUA to use the drug Baricitnib to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients. A clinical study in Europe found that it may enhance survival in patients with severe COVID,” DeSantis added. “More good news about the vaccine has been coming out. December 10th is the date that the FDA will meet regarding the Pfizer vaccine and we anticipate the FDA to review Moderna’s vaccine shortly thereafter.

“Importantly, I spoke with the top pharmacist at both CVS and Walgreens involved in operation Warp Speed,’ the governor continued. “They assured me that as soon as they have the vaccine in hand, they are ready to deploy to Florida’s over-4,000 long-term care facilities to begin vaccinating the residents. Fortunately, more than 3,000 long-term care facilities have already signed up. And our goal will be to provide vaccines to every resident of long-term care facilities throughout the state.

“Of course, the initial doses of the vaccine is estimated to be 40 million by the end of December nationwide. It’s important to know that each vaccine requires the individual to take two doses. So, 40 million doses will represent the vaccination of approximately 20 million Americans. Now that obviously is not going to be enough to vaccinate everyone right at the beginning, so there will be priorities set,” DeSantis said. “And in Florida, we are going to set priorities focusing on specifically those most vulnerable, elderly residents in long-term care facilities, as well as our frontline health care workers who are interacting with vulnerable patients day in and day out.

“As more vaccine becomes available, we of course are going to want to get that into the broader senior community first, and then into the broader community at large. But as we anxiously await the vaccine, I think it’s important to double down on protecting our most vulnerable, particularly our vulnerable seniors in long-term care facilities. If we can redouble our efforts to protect the most vulnerable until the vaccine is deployed, we will help safeguard the lives of thousands of Floridians,” he continued. “Accordingly, I have set aside an additional 500,000 rapid tests. Over these next few weeks, all long-term care facilities will be able to test all staff, all visitors, and all contractors. We have all longed for the day when our long-term care residents can return to normal and that day is finally within our grasp.”

In the meantime, U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., who worked as a healthcare executive before being elected governor in 2010, wrote U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Sec. Alex Azar asking about vaccine distribution including how the states will handle it.

“Detailed planning and coordination at every level of government will be required to get the vaccine to Americans safely and efficiently without unnecessary delays,” Scott’s office noted.

“The administration has made tremendous progress when it comes to vaccine development, and reports suggest an authorized vaccine may be available to Americans by the end of the year. This is great news, but fast, reliable and equitable vaccine distribution will require large-scale, coordinated efforts among federal, state, territorial, local jurisdictions and private entities. This challenge is substantial and a significant amount of oversight will be needed to hold all stakeholders accountable,” Scott wrote.

“Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requested that states provide them with a plan on how they will operationalize a vaccination response to COVID-19 within their jurisdictions. While the states have responded to that initial request, it is unclear exactly how federal, state and local governments will coordinate in this execution. More information is needed to reassure Americans that their states will do everything possible to efficiently and equitably distribute a vaccine,” Scott added before asking Azar a host of questions about plans to distribute the vaccine.

“I appreciate any information you can provide as we continue to work to end the coronavirus. Americans deserve transparency and as much information as possible from every level of government so they can make the best decisions to keep their families safe. It is vital that we get the vaccine to Americans safely and efficiently without unnecessary delays. This will require detailed planning and coordination at every level,” Scott wrote.

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

 

KEVIN DERBY
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