Nearly half-million vaccine doses promised to Florida in next two weeks 'on hold,' DeSantis says

After the first doses were administered from Monday's historic delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to healthcare workers on the frontlines of the fight against the pandemic, hundreds more received their first shots Tuesday at Tampa General Hospital.

However, during a Tuesday news conference, Governor Ron DeSantis said nearly a half-million more doses promised from Pfizer in the next two weeks are indefinitely on hold.

"One thing that we're looking to see is what additional Pfizer are we gonna get this month. When we had the initial rundown when I met with Warp Speed about a month ago, we're supposed to get for week two, which is next week, 205,000 Pfizer and then the next week 247,000. Those next two weeks shipments of Pfizer are on hold right now, we don’t know whether we’re going to get any or not and we're just gonna have to wait," DeSantis said. "It's a production issue with Pfizer, it has nothing to do with the federal government or nothing to do specifically with Florida. This is just what's happening nationwide."

DeSantis added that 530,000 doses of the yet-to-be-approved Moderna vaccine are expected to be delivered in the state by the end of the month.

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Five hospitals --- UF Health Jacksonville, Tampa General Hospital, AdventHealth in Orlando, Memorial Healthcare System in Broward County and Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami --- received their vaccine shipments this week and began inoculating front-line health care workers.

Meanwhile, in a statewide phone call with health department officials, hospitals across the state on Tuesday were clamoring for information about the next shipments of COVID-19 vaccines and whether their facilities would be on the delivery list next week. 

Hospitals also pressed state officials about which vaccine they would receive --- the Pfizer vaccine, which requires extremely cold storage, the Moderna vaccine candidate, or both.

For now, Moskowitz said the goal is to keep the vaccine supply bifurcated, with hospitals receiving either the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine. But he said that also will be dependent on production of the vaccines.

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The second phase of vaccinations is expected to begin in early 2021 and, provided there's enough supply, TGH said it'll go to:

  • Additional physicians or healthcare workers in direct patient care
  • People over 65 with underlying health conditions
  • First responders
  • Law enforcement
  • Essential workers including teachers, childcare providers, and food distribution employees. 

Until then, Charles Lockwood, the dean of the University of South Florida College of Medicine, stressed at the Tampa news conference that people should continue to socially distance, wear masks and avoid large gatherings as the virus continues to spread across the nation.

Lockwood called the approval of the vaccine magical, likening it to the moon landing.

“From a health care perspective, this is our magical Neal Armstrong moment,” Lockwood said.

To keep track of the vaccines, the state on Tuesday issued an emergency rule that requires all COVID-19 vaccine providers to report information to the state, including information about the race and ethnicity of people being vaccinated and the names of the facilities where they were vaccinated.

The emergency rule requires that the information be reported to the state within 24 hours, but Department of Health Secretary Scott Rivkees said officials would prefer the information to be reported in real time as part of tracking efforts.

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Last month, Moderna and NIH reported that their shot appeared to be nearly 95% effective across various ages and racial groups, according to results from an ongoing 30,000-person study.

The main side effects were fatigue, muscle aches, and injection-site pain after the second dose. Those flu-like reactions are common to many vaccines and are a sign the vaccine is revving up the immune system to help fight off the virus.

Moderna reported no major safety problems from its study. But FDA’s panel is certain to scrutinize the data for any indications of possible severe allergic reactions or other rare side effects.

Officials in the U.K. are investigating several adverse reactions there with Pfizer’s vaccine and FDA is closely monitoring the rollout here for similar reports.

Both Moderna’s and Pfizer-BioNTech’s shots are so-called mRNA vaccines, a brand-new technology. They aren’t made with the coronavirus itself, meaning there’s no chance anyone could catch it from the shots. Instead, the vaccine contains a piece of genetic code that trains the immune system to recognize the spiked protein on the surface of the virus.

There are 73 different vaccines undergoing clinical studies. Among those, 16 are in phase three, which is the final round of testing.

The Associated Press and the News Service of Florida contributed to this report.