WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The COVID-19 vaccine may not be available for the general public in Palm Beach County until the summer, officials said on Friday.
U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel hosted a virtual roundtable with more than a dozen local mayors and city managers to discuss the latest response to combating the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
Mary Blakene with Palm Beach County Emergency Management said that once a COVID-19 vaccine is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it will be distributed in Palm Beach County using a phased approach.
"These plans are changing every day," Blakene said.
WATCH ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION:
In Phase One, health care workers and long-term care facilities will get the vaccine first, followed by first responders like law enforcement and firefighters.
"They anticipate this first distribution trickling in, if you will. It will be coming quite slow," Blakene said.
In Phase Two, certain pharmacies throughout Palm Beach County will receive the vaccine. County officials are also looking at the possibility of setting up mass distribution sites, similar to large-scale COVID-19 testing sites that are currently located throughout the county.
"We would look at those types of models to potentially do vaccine distribution," Blakene said.
The final phase of distribution would target underserved areas, possibly including mobile vaccinations.
"We have been told by the state to realistically anticipate distribution to the general public, having that level of availability, in the late spring or early summer. So we're talking the April, May time frame," Blakene said.
"Wow," Rep. Frankel responded.
"We're just really trying to manage those expectations, plan ahead for what that might look like," Blakene said. "We don't want everybody to think there's gonna be a vaccination available next week."
Blakene said Palm Beach County started planning in September for vaccine distribution and is following guidelines from the state and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The FDA will meet on Dec. 10 to decide of a COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer, which is said to be more than 90% effective, should get an emergency use authorization, meaning it can be distributed throughout the country.
Just days later, the FDA will meet on Dec. 17 to vote on an emergency use authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna, which is also more than 90% effective.
Blakene said there's no word on whether there will be an age restriction on who gets the COVID-19 vaccine.
According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health, there are 1,029,030 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 19,112 coronavirus-related deaths in Florida.