Pinellas County health department getting 10,500 vaccine doses; distribution could begin next week

Pinellas will be one of the two first counties in Florida with the soon-to-be approved COVID-19 vaccine, the state Department of Health announced Friday.

After the FDA granted emergency use approval for Pfizer's vaccine, officials with the Florida Department of Health began coordinating how, where, and when those shots will be distributed.

NEW: FDA approves Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for emergency use

FL - DoH has been allotted a total of 21,450 doses of the vaccine, and the agency is splitting those doses between Pinellas and Broward counties. Tom Iovino with the Florida Department of Health - Pinellas County says the state will give his agency about 10,500 doses -- roughly half of the state’s allotment for the health department. The other half is going to Broward County.

“From what I understand we were selected because we are a larger population county, we have access to the long-term cold storage,” Iovino said.

Florida locations of CVS and Walgreens will oversee a little over 60,000 doses.

“CVS and Walgreens are contracted with [the Department of Health and Human Services] to go into [long-term care] facilities. This is what they do, they go in and they do flu shots, they do other things,” DeSantis explained.

CVS sent FOX 13 a statement on how they will roll out the shots:

 “CVS Pharmacy locations will store vaccines based on geographic need, and pharmacy teams will go to these locations to pick-up the necessary doses on their way to long-term care facilities… We’ll know how much we need for each facility and bring extra for new residents or staff members who may not have been included in the data that was shared in advance.”

While CVS says the earliest it can start vaccinating is December 21 -- Pinellas County health officials hope to get started next week.

Florida COVID-19 vaccine: Gov. DeSantis announces priority groups

Florida's governor says the state's plan for distributing the COVID-19 vaccine is similar to the CDC's strategy, with one added group.

Gov. Ron DeSantis already outlined his priorities for the vaccines as they are approved. Residents of long-term care facilities will be first, followed by healthcare workers in high-risk and high-contact environments. 
After that, the state will target residents 65 and older, along with those who have significant comorbidities.

“The arrival of the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines in Pinellas gives us another way to protect the most vulnerable Pinellas residents and health-care workers who have been hard hit by the pandemic as well as those who provide their care," said Dr. Ulyee Choe, director of the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County. "We are honored to be one of the first two Florida counties to begin the vaccination effort in the state."

DeSantis: Florida to receive nearly 180,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses

Florida will receive 179,400 doses of Pfizer Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine in its first shipment from the federal government, Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a video recording released Thursday evening.

“This is a really important thing for our country and our state,” the governor said Friday, explaining that it will allow isolated residents to return to their normal lives.