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Florida COVID-19 vaccinations keeping pace with rest of U.S.

Analysis: The state has focused shots on those 65 and up, but its eldest have not been vaccinated any faster.
Pharmacist Aji Kannamal administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to a patient at the Winn Dixie pharmacy during the first day of vaccination rollout on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021 in Apollo Beach.
Pharmacist Aji Kannamal administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to a patient at the Winn Dixie pharmacy during the first day of vaccination rollout on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021 in Apollo Beach. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Feb. 12

Nearly two full months since the first person in Florida received a coronavirus vaccine (outside of a trial), the state is keeping pace with the rest of the country in putting shots in arms.

Florida passed the 3 million mark in reported administered doses of the vaccine on Wednesday. About 1.3 million people have received one of their two scheduled doses, and another 900,000 are finished with both.

At two shots a person, it would take about 34 million doses to fully vaccinate all the state’s adults. But that number will come down if and when the U.S. approves the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which has been tested using only one dose.

Over the last four weeks, the state has injected about 79,000 shots a day, or 553,000 a week. Without picking up the pace, that would mean taking more than a year to reach 34 million.

Officials expect the effort to soon scale up dramatically, though, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, special advisor to President Joe Biden, said Thursday the vast majority of adults could be vaccinated by late summer.

Adjusted for total population, Florida has administered about as many shots as the U.S. overall — 13.8 doses per 100 Floridians, compared to 14.0 per 100 Americans.

(How many doses a state has been able to order has depended on its 18-and-older population, though — Florida has administered 17.2 doses per 100 adults, compared to 17.0 in the rest of the country.)

As of Thursday, Florida trails the U.S. average in what share of its residents have had a first shot, but outpaces the country in how many have had both shots. As appointments open in spurts and follow-ups are scheduled, these two rates can swing back and forth. Three weeks ago, the reverse was true — Florida was above average in first shots administered but below average in second shots.

Data on age and race is limited nationally — but Florida has likely given more of its shots to 65-and-older residents than most states. As of Feb. 4, about 72 percent of Florida’s vaccinated population were seniors, highest among 28 states that reported similar breakdowns, a Kaiser Family Foundation report found.

By Wednesday, about 35 percent of all Floridians 65 and older had been vaccinated, at least with one shot. Seniors are much more likely to face severe symptoms than younger adults, and Gov. Ron DeSantis has pushed “Seniors First” messaging since the vaccine became available.

But even though people much older than 65 are at higher risk, Florida’s eldest haven’t been vaccinated any faster.

The vaccination rates among people 65-74, 75-84 and 85 and older are virtually the same, with between 35 and 36 percent of each group receiving at least one dose so far.

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There may also be a balancing act between vaccinating the state’s oldest residents and vaccinating seniors of color. Hispanic and Black Floridians have received doses at lower rates than others, despite making up an outsized number of those who have died from COVID-19. But non-Hispanic white people make up 76 percent of the state’s 85-and-older population, compared to just 69 percent of seniors under 70. The state has released data on vaccinations by age group and by race, but not combined.

Coronavirus cases, hospitalizations continue to fall

Daily new coronavirus case numbers fell to below 8,000 this week, their lowest level since November and only half of where they were just a month ago, during the state’s winter peak.

Less than 5,000 patients were being treated for COVID-19 in Florida hospitals as of Thursday, another sign of continued improvement. The trends mirror those nationwide, as the pandemic in the U.S. has diminished since mid-January.

This is a regular series examining Florida’s coronavirus data.

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