TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s largest hospital system said it was on track to immunize nearly 20,000 health care workers against COVID-19 as Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday announced a delay in hundreds of thousands of doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
But DeSantis said the first batch of the Moderna vaccine — 370,000 doses — could begin heading to his state as soon as this weekend and would allow wider distribution of the medicine to hospitals across the state, pending federal authorization.
Florida began receiving its share of the coronavirus vaccine on Monday, and the state was expected to get about 450,000 doses produced by Pfizer over the next two weeks. But production issues could prevent them from being delivered.
“We’re just going to have to wait. Obviously, it would be shipped relatively soon if we got it,” DeSantis said at a news conference in West Palm Beach. “We don’t know if we’re going to get any or not.”
The state will take what it can get, DeSantis said, as it attempts to take control of a pandemic that has infected more than 1.1 million Floridians since COVID-19 made its first appearance in the state in March.
On Tuesday, the state health department reported a daily increase of more than 9,400 cases. The state also reported 94 new deaths, raising the cumulative death toll to 20,365.
The top priority is to use early shipments of the vaccines to protect health care workers, who have been on the frontlines in the fight against the pandemic.
Officials at one of Florida’s largest hospital networks said on Tuesday they were on pace to vaccinate 19,500 health care workers against COVID-19 at Jackson Health System and other Miami hospitals in seven days to avoid staffing shortages as the state continues to see rising numbers of patients with the virus.
The pandemic has not only been a public health concern, but an economic one, too.
DeSantis used a steakhouse in West Palm Beach as a backdrop for his news conference on Tuesday, arguing that the economic livelihoods of Floridians were just as important.
He said restaurant workers, and the lodging and hospitality industries, have “taken it on the chin” because of shutdowns.
“I just want to send a message that some may want to shut you down but we want to pull you up,” DeSantis told workers who joined him for his media event.