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DeSantis to start vaccinating Florida’s homebound seniors

So far, 1,500 doses have been allotted for the program, Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Monday.
Walgreens pharmacist Anette McClary portions doses of the BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine into syringes on Jan. 21, while distributing the shots to residents and health care workers at Heron House Assisted Living in Largo.
Walgreens pharmacist Anette McClary portions doses of the BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine into syringes on Jan. 21, while distributing the shots to residents and health care workers at Heron House Assisted Living in Largo. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Feb. 5
Updated Feb. 8

Gov. Ron DeSantis this week announced the state’s rollout of a program to vaccinate homebound seniors against the coronavirus — starting with 1,500 vaccinations.

“You have folks who may not be able to go to a drive-thru site, may not even be able to go to the grocery store or hospital,” DeSantis said at a press conference Monday in The Villages. “So those are folks that we want to be able to provide vaccines for.”

Many seniors who live independently are struggling to get vaccinated, as the state has prioritized vaccinating residents of nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and 55-plus communities.

Related: Tampa Bay’s homebound seniors struggle to get coronavirus vaccinations

The vaccines will be administered to homebound seniors inside their residences by strike teams that include state workers and local fire-rescue and paramedic teams, according to Samantha Bequer, spokeswoman for the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

The department has been working with the Florida Department of Elder Affairs and the Department’s Area Agencies on Aging this week to identify additional homebound seniors for the remaining 750 shots, Bequer wrote. The first 750 doses were allocated for Holocaust survivors and their spouses, including some in South Florida, the Miami Herald reported Thursday.

The state plans to expand the program as Florida receives more doses, Bequer said. The department will release information about next week’s doses as they become available.

Homebound seniors should reach out to their county health departments for more information, she said.

Related: Tampa Bay’s homebound seniors struggle to get coronavirus vaccinations

Transportation is “a major barrier” for some seniors trying to get vaccinated, according to Dr. David Moen, president of Prospero Health Partners, a company that specializes in caring for elderly people with chronic, advanced health conditions. Some of the company’s patients have received vaccinations, but the vast majority of homebound seniors have not, Moen said last week.

Seniors also have been calling the AARP with vaccine access concerns, said Jeff Johnson, AARP state director.

Some hospitals have given shots to homebound clients, DeSantis said, but his is the first statewide program to vaccinate this vulnerable population.

“We want to look out for them, too,” he said.

As of Thursday, Florida had administered 2,320,966 vaccine doses, according to the Florida Department of Health, including more than 1.3 million to people 65 and older.

“It’s a good sign that the state is paying attention to who might be left out or who might be losers in the current system of assigning vaccines,” Johnson said. “The key is going to be how this gets scaled up and how it gets implemented.”

The state also needs to provide details on the rollout of the vaccines, Johnson said.

“The state has launched some ideas that I think can really help reach hard-to-reach-populations with the vaccine, which is fantastic,” Johnson said. “But without the transparency of knowing how broadly those ideas are being resourced, it’s going to be hard to tell whether they’re really meeting the need.”

Miami Herald reporter Samantha J. Gross contributed to this report.

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