TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida will be getting its first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in the next three to six weeks. That's the best estimate, according to the governor’s office Thursday, saying in a statement a lot of it depends on when the FDA approves.
Federal officials are set to review both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines in the coming weeks. The pharmaceutical companies behind them are seeking emergency approval, each touting a near 95% efficacy rate.
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The announcement that their doses could soon be on the way was very welcomed news to everyone anxiously wanting to return to normal.
"It has been very scary," said Karimah Horne, a Tallahassee resident. "It's been crazy."
Horne is one of the millions of Floridians who has followed virus protections since March. She's now growing frustrated over COVID-19's persistence. Horne said she's ready for a vaccine to ease precautions and her mind.
"I literally have to use hand sanitizer and wash my hands everywhere I go,” she said. "It would give me peace of mind to know that I'm not giving it to someone else, and maybe my chances of getting it from someone else would be low, as well."
In a video statement, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Florida will get a portion of the 40 million Pfizer and Moderna doses being made ready. With patients needing two shots apiece, it translates to enough for 20 million Americans.
Florida's allotment, which the governor didn't quantify, would be shipped and distributed by five Florida hospitals:
- Jackson Memorial — Miami Dade County
- Memorial Healthcare — Broward County
- Tampa General — Tampa
- Advent Health — Orlando
- UF Health — Jacksonville
"The good thing about this is millions of doses are ready to ship as we speak," DeSantis said in his statement. "As soon as the FDA approves, they will then go out within the next 24 hours.”
The state has bought five million syringes, needles and alcohol swabs in preparation for the vaccine's arrival. The most vulnerable Floridians will receive those shots first.
"Our goal is to make all safe and effective COVID vaccines available to Floridians who want them, but the state will not mandate that Floridians take these vaccines," DeSantis said. "That is going to be the choice of each and every Floridian."
Medical experts warn this is only the first batch of vaccine. It will still likely take until at least next year for production to meet demand. That means people like Horne may wait months before their chance at inoculation.
The FDA has promised to post online updates of its review progress.
In a statement this week, the FDA commissioner explained the reason his administration planned to be methodical before issuing "emergency use authorization."
"Let me be clear on a crucial point -- the issuance of an EUA is based on data and science," said Dr. Stephen M. Hahn in a statement. "For an EUA to be authorized, FDA's career scientists conduct a rigorous evaluation of currently available scientific evidence about a medical product. We work with sponsors so that additional data about the product's safety and effectiveness continue to be collected and reviewed. If the available scientific evidence changes or if new information becomes available, we can pivot and potentially adapt the EUA, including revising the authorized use or revoking the EUA. These are both steps that we have taken during the COVID-19 pandemic."