Gov. Ron DeSantis just a few days ago said that Americans need to unify behind the science that has led to the rapid development of vaccines. So it was a bit strange that DeSantis on Friday said that perhaps the number of Florida residents who receive COVID-19 vaccinations could be boosted — by not following Pfizer Inc.’s recommended instructions for its vaccine candidate.
The federal government is imminently expected to announce its approval of Pfizer’s vaccine candidate and, within 24 hours of approval, begin shipping the vaccine to Florida and other states. DeSantis said Florida will receive less of the supply than what was initially anticipated, so he came up with a possible way to stretch out the state’s inoculations.
Instead of giving two doses, as recommended by the pharmaceutical manufacturer, to high-risk populations such as nursing home residents and front-line hospital workers, perhaps one dose could do, the Governor suggested Friday.
DeSantis pointed to an article in The Wall Street Journal — it was an opinion piece written by neuroscientist Michael Segal — about the efficacy of the one-dose approach. DeSantis referred to the second dose as a “booster” shot, echoing Segal’s choice of words.
“Just get as many doses out there,” the Governor said during a mental-health roundtable in Tampa on Friday. “I’m not sure that Pfizer would agree or FDA would agree, but I think just the point is, getting that first does out really does make a difference, and I think you’ll see that.”
Pfizer said last month that its vaccine candidate had a 95% effectiveness in providing protection against the virus that causes COVID-19 when two doses are administered three weeks apart. Documents released by the federal government this week showed that the vaccine offers some protection after the first dose. Indeed, the vaccine had an effectiveness of more than 50% about a week after it was administered.
But according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the only vaccine candidate under development that doesn’t require two doses is one being manufactured by Johnson & Johnson.
DeSantis, a close ally of President Donald Trump, told reporters Friday that he thought the vaccinations would be distributed to the state on a risk-adjusted basis, taking things such as the age of the state’s residents into consideration. That would have boded well for Florida, which has the nation’s second-highest proportion of residents over the age of 65.
Instead, the government is allocating the vaccination on a per capita basis, DeSantis said.