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Florida expands COVID distribution. A good step, but don’t stop there | Editorial
Plus a look at the state’s vaccine distribution numbers
A pharmacist with Walgreens Pharmacy prepares a syringe with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine .
A pharmacist with Walgreens Pharmacy prepares a syringe with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine . [ LYNNE SLADKY | AP ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published Feb. 11

Getting COVID-19 shots into arms needs to be an all hands on deck affair. The new, more infectious variants of the virus spreading through the state only underscore the importance of moving as quickly as possible. It would be great to somehow open the precise number of sites needed to satisfy the demand for vaccinations, no more and no fewer, like businesses selling coffee or burgers. But that is a luxury we do not have. We must flood the zone with ways to get vaccinated and then make any needed tweaks to the distribution system later. That’s why it was so good to see that a federal program will send vaccine vials directly to nearly 500 Walmart, Publix Winn-Dixie, Harveys and Fresco y Mas pharmacies across 52 Florida counties.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the rollout Tuesday, saying the pharmacy should be able to offer the vaccine to people 65 and over starting this week. The program expands the network of pharmacies already offering the vaccine. Publix alone will add more than 260 stores that offer vaccines, bringing its total to just under 600. Walmart, along with Sam’s Club, will get about 25,000 doses to distribute starting Friday from 119 stores.

The availability of enough vaccine has held up the vaccination effort, but so has an inadequate distribution system. As vaccine manufacturing picks up, we’ll need to keep adding ways to ensure that everyone has easy access to a vaccination site. Even with the expanded federal program, more than 8.2 million Floridians live in ZIP codes without any retail pharmacy that offers the vaccine, the Times reported.

The sooner we achieve herd immunity, the fewer people who will die or suffer long term injuries from the virus. And when enough people are vaccinated, the economy will fully recover and life can get back to normal. We’ll get there faster with the most robust vaccine distribution system possible.

So how far along is the vaccination effort? About 10 percent of Americans have received one dose, and 3 percent have received two doses, as of Tuesday. That ranks well behind world-leader Israel (40 percent and 25 percent), but ahead of most other countries. The United States has administered about 69 percent of the available doses.

As for Florida, here’s the breakdown, and the ranking against the 49 other states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Residents with at least one dose

1. Alaska 15%

2. West Virginia 12%

3. New Mexico 12%

27. Florida 9.4%

48. Alabama 8.1%

49. Missouri 8%

50. Kansas 8%

Residents with two doses

1. West Virginia 6%

2. Alaska 5.7%

3. North Dakota 5%

22. Florida 3.2%

48. Idaho 2.1%

49. Mississippi 2%

50. Alabama 1.9%

Doses used

1. Utah 96%

2. North Dakota 91%

3. West Virginia 86%

39. Florida 65%

48. Nebraska 61%

49. Alabama 60%

50. Alaska 60%

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.