Dr. Asha Fields Brewer
By Dara Kam
News Service of Florida
Florida had a “magical moment” this week, as the first health-care workers and long-term care residents received vaccinations considered the cornerstone of a promised return to normalcy amid the coronavirus pandemic siege.
With their sleeves rolled up and their arms held out, nurses, doctors and seniors were captured on camera as they received shots of Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine, the first COVID-19 pharmaceutical protection released throughout the nation more than a week ago.
But the rollout of the Pfizer vaccine in Florida wasn’t without hiccups.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said last week that all of the state’s long-term care facility residents could be inoculated by the end of the year.
But that now seems unlikely.
Despite what was originally expected, the state won’t get another round of the Pfizer vaccine next week, prompting finger- pointing between the Republican governor and the pharmaceutical manufacturer.
last Wednesday, DeSantis blamed the delay on Pfizer production issues.
But the following day, Pfizer released a statement saying that wasn’t the case.
“Pfizer is not having any production issues with our COVID-19 vaccine, and no shipments containing the vaccine are on hold or delayed. This week, we successfully shipped all 2.9 million doses that we were asked to ship by the U.S. government to the locations specified by them,” the company’s statement said. “We have millions more doses sitting in our warehouse but, as of now, we have not received any shipment instructions for additional doses.”
Florida, however, is in line next week for a batch of vaccine doses from the drug company Moderna.
The doses will be distributed to 173 hospitals in 43 counties, DeSantis’ office announced Thursday.
The vaccinations began on the same day the state surpassed another sober marker, with health officials last Monday reporting more than 20,000 coronavirus-related deaths of Florida residents. The state has logged more than 1.1 million cases of COVID-19 since March.
DeSantis has staunchly defended his decisions to reopen businesses, bars and restaurants, moves that drew withering criticism from Democrats. He also has rejected requests to order a statewide face mask mandate and has banned local government officials from imposing penalties on people who don’t wear masks.
As the virus continues to spread and COVID-19 hospitalizations climb, DeSantis doubled down this week on urging Floridians and visitors to dine out.
The governor bristled when a reporter said local officials were accusing DeSantis of hamstringing their ability to curb the spread of the highly contagious virus. DeSantis insisted that further restrictions would harm business owners and their employees.
“If a local leader wants to put them out of work, you’re damn right I’m hobbling them from doing that,” DeSantis said during a press conference last Tuesday at the Okeechobee Steakhouse in West Palm Beach, where he was flanked by restaurant workers. “If they want to shut down businesses, I’m going to stand in the way.”
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