The Problem With Florida’s Vaccine Rollout

Humberto Mendez Prince/Staff Writer

It’s been a month since the COVID-19 vaccination programs have been rolling out across the country, and some states are making considerable progress compared to others. So far, Florida’s vaccination campaign is not working in favor of its residents and it could learn a few things from other states.

Since last January, the U.S government provided  4.2 million doses to Florida in order to be administered to its residents, yet Gov. Ron DeSantis decided the first people to be vaccinated should be seniors and high-risk patients. This basically leaves young adults and children out of the first phase of the vaccination program. However, out of the millions of recipients that were supposed to be benefiting from DeSantis’ decision, it is estimated that only 2.4 million of them have received their first shot, and so far only 1.1 million people have been given a second dose necessary to achieve complete immunity. Reports have also mentioned constant shortages in supply, leaving millions of people wondering if the state is even capacitated to run a vaccination program.

South Florida is facing backlash due to supply and technological hurdles, the people that already struggled to get vaccinated the first time are now fighting to get that second dose. This has been affecting mainly seniors who already have a difficult time dealing with technology.  Reportedly, they have been struggling to register due to technical issues with the state webpages.  This puts them at risk of not getting the first dose and, in the case of those who already got vaccinated, not getting a second shot in time.

Another problem with the Floridian vaccination program is the logistics they designed regarding who should get the first vaccines. In an ideal setting, the first shots should be distributed gradually and by order of vulnerability starting from seniors, high-risk patients, first response workers and young adults. However, the state deemed it more important that seniors 65 and older, some first response workers and vulnerable patients get the first vaccines without a solid organizational plan put in place. The problem lies in the high elderly population of Florida and the high population number in general.

 Florida has the second-highest elderly population, right behind Maine, and is the third most populous state in the country. This means that the few vaccines assigned to be administered to its residents should be done so diligently by applying the first dose to a select portion of elderly people, first response workers and finally vulnerable patients. This can be achieved by a thorough selection process that takes into account Florida’s high population. Instead, the state opened public websites that would inevitably overflow with people trying to get their first shot, whether they were eligible or not, and gave doses to pharmacies and health clinics such as Publix and Winn-Dixie. This explains the quick shortage of vaccines. 

Comparing the organizational strategies of Florida with their similar counterpart in terms of the elderly population, Maine has been doing remarkably well in terms of progress in their vaccination program. The only notable difference is how public these vaccines are made available to its residents and the age acceptance of first dose recipients. Maine’s first vaccinations are going exclusively to residents age 70 and up, first response workers, and high-risk patients.

 In terms of population, Texas can also be compared to Florida. Their vaccination program has been successful at registering 81 percent of the latest doses used compared to the 77 percent that Florida has now.  Texas vaccination procedures include administering first doses to residents 65 and up, high-risk patients older than 16 and health care workers.

Little federal assistance accompanied by poor organization sheds light on Gov. DeSantis’ priorities regarding the health of its residents. It was proven to Floridians at the beginning of the pandemic last year and this serves as evidence again.  Gov. DeSantis is more worried about quarreling with President Biden and members of the Democratic party rather than improving an already faulty vaccination program.

 So far, the beginning of the vaccination campaign in Florida has been plagued with organizational hurdles, technological failures and distributional disparities creating a counterproductive response on those most affected by the virus. To prevent this, a more effective plan has to be established by the state.


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

Photo by Steven Cornfield on Unsplash

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