DeSantis: Long-term care facilities will be first up for COVID-19 vaccine

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Gov. Ron DeSantis has announced updated plans on COVID-19 vaccine distribution and new coronavirus treatments ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

As the vaccine awaits approval from the Food and Drug Administration, the state is already putting in plans on distribution among its most vulnerable populations, including elderly residents and health care workers.

DeSantis said the initial doses of the vaccine are estimated to be 40 million by the end of December nationwide. Each vaccine requires two doses, meaning about 20 million Americans will likely be vaccinated initially, forcing the state to prioritize its distribution.

The pre-Thanksgiving update follows Gov. DeSantis’ recent conversations with officials from Operation Warp Speed, as well as CVS Senior Vice President of Pharmacy Growth Chris Cox and Walgreens Vice President of Specialty Pharmacy Luke Sauter.

Both pharmacy executives assured DeSantis once the vaccine is available for use, it will be deployed to Florida’s more than 4,000 long-term care facilities, and more than 3,000 long-term care facilities have already signed up.

“Our goal will be to provide vaccines to every resident of long-term care facilities throughout the state,” DeSantis said. “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.”

The FDA will meet on Dec. 10 regarding the Pfizer vaccine approval, and it’s expected to review Moderna’s vaccine shortly thereafter.

The Governor also discussed new treatments for the virus showing promise, including Regeneron, a new monoclonal antibody therapy meant for those most vulnerable to COVID. The drug has received emergency use authorization and is on its way to hospitals throughout the state, DeSantis said.

This effectively doubles the supply of Bamlan – Eli Lilly’s monoclonal antibody treatment that arrived at hospitals just over a week ago. Both treatments are administered by IV and are meant to be taken shortly after receiving a positive test.

As Florida residents await the FDA’s approval of the vaccine, the Governor has set aside an additional 500,000 rapid tests for Florida’s long-term care facilities.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government and is a proud Gator alum. You can reach Kelly at kelly@floridapolitics.com.

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