COVID-19 Vaccines; Florida's Pandemic Response And Transparency

Dec 11, 2020

The first round of COVID-19 vaccines could be administered here in Florida next week.

On December 10, Governor Ron DeSantis said that Florida expects almost 180,000 doses of the vaccine in the first shipment, which is expected to arrive within the week.

Patients in long-term care facilities are DeSantis’s top priority as far as who receives it first, but the state’s plans reserve more doses for healthcare workers in high risk/high contact environments. Those workers will get just over half of the first supplies of the vaccine in Florida.

Dr. Michael Koren, of the Jacksonville Center for Clinical Research, joined us on the program with more information about the vaccine and what we can expect in the coming weeks.

And when the vaccines arrive in Florida, distribution is one challenge. Acceptance is another.

An internal Jackson Health System survey of almost six thousand people found 49% were interested in receiving the vaccine in the first round. A third of those surveyed said maybe later and one in seven said they would not be interested in being vaccinated at all. The hospital system is the the largest safety net hospital network in South Florida.

Public health officials will be working to convince Floridians to get the shot if they can. But an investigation into how the state has communicated with the public during the pandemic raises questions about public confidence.

Mario Ariza, a reporter for the Sun-Sentinel, investigated how the state and DeSantis communicated what they knew about the virus. Ariza and his colleagues interviewed dozens of officials and combed through more than 4,000 pages of documentation. He joined us to discuss some of their findings.

Ariza said part of restoring the public’s trust in the state’s handling of COVID-19 would include increasing transparency.

Public health officials will spend the coming weeks tackling these challenges and encouraging Floridians to get vaccinated.

Katherine Hobbs can be reached at newsteam@wjct.org or on Twitter at @KatherineGHobbs.