Pinellas and Broward will be the first two counties in Florida to vaccinate for COVID-19 starting as early as next week.
The counties will prioritize the Pfizer-BioNTech immunizations for residents of skilled nursing facilities and those who provide their care. Initial vaccine distribution is expected in the upcoming week.
“The arrival of the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines in Pinellas gives us another way to protect the most vulnerable Pinellas residents and health-care workers who have been hard hit by the pandemic as well as those who provide their care,” Dr. Ulyee Choe, director of the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County, said in a news release. “We are honored to be one of the first two Florida counties to begin the vaccination effort in the state.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday that Florida will receive 179,400 Pfizer vaccines within the week. Of the doses coming to Florida, 97,500 Pfizer vaccines will be delivered to hospitals for high-exposure health care personnel and 60,450 will go to CVS and Walgreens for long-term care facilities.
Pinellas and Broward counties have been allocated about 21,450 doses, spilt between the two.
Speaking about vaccine distribution Friday, DeSantis contended Florida’s large, elderly population presents unique circumstances that should have been considered.
Paramedic teams will administer the vaccines, and more COVID-19 vaccines from other manufacturers will be available for use at later dates as supplies reach the state.
“The COVID-19 vaccine is a sign of hope as we address this pandemic in Florida,” Dr. Paula Thaqi, director of the Florida Department of Health in Broward County, said in a news release. “We are still encouraging residents and visitors to take common sense precautions to protect themselves from the spread of the virus. These include frequent hand washing, wearing masks, maintaining six feet of social distancing and staying home if you are feeling sick.”
Long-term care facility residents and health care workers — Florida’s most vulnerable residents — are prioritized in Phase 1 of the Florida vaccine distribution plan, per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations. After that, those 65 and older will be eligible.
Separately, the federal government will ship vaccines to five Florida hospitals: Jackson Memorial in Miami, AdventHealth in Orlando, Tampa General Hospital, the Memorial Healthcare System in Broward County and UF Health Jacksonville.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine received the final go-ahead from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Friday, earning an emergency use authorization. The third phase of the vaccine’s use in test participants demonstrated it was 95% effective following two doses.
As plans are finalized, DOH-Broward and DOH-Pinellas will release more details on the vaccination plan.