Florida surgeon general grilled by lawmakers over state’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout

8 On Your Side

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — 8 On Your Side is continuing to fight for answers after we exposed there are nearly one million unused doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in Florida.

Right now, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows nearly one million first doses of vaccines have yet to be used in Florida. And despite Gov. Ron DeSantis’ statements, 8 On Your Side uncovered the vaccine backlog does not include booster shots being held in reserve.

In a committee hearing held Wednesday morning, Democratic state senators questioned Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees about the rollout. The lawmakers grilled Rivkees over the state’s alleged lack of planning and reports that the rich are skipping the vaccine lines.

“Do you believe … if we would’ve put a vaccination plan together that we could have avoided that?” State Sen. Shevrin Jones (D-Miami Gardens) asked.

Sen. Gary Farmer Jr. (D-Fort Lauderdale) asked, “what’s the status of this overall plan?”

Weeks after the vaccine’s arrival, Florida has not finalized its vaccination plan. The latest draft is from Oct. 16, 2020.

Still, Dr. Scott Rivkees says, the strategy is clear: Florida prioritizes seniors — and the country is following our model.

“The 50-page plan that you all worked on was condensed down into the governor’s one-page order which is really right now our only official plan?” Sen. Farmer asked.

“Right yes, this covers the strategies at the present time for individuals who are being vaccinated,” Dr. Rivkees confirmed.

With 4.5 million Floridians in the 65 and up age group, many of them desperate for the vaccine, the question is where are the one million unused shots and how can they be administered faster? 8 On Your Side has reached out to the governor and the Florida Department of Health for answers.

We do know the state is increasing the number of vaccination sites. In the meantime, we also learned Wednesday that Florida is hiring a vendor to communicate the vaccination plan to the public.

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April 24 2021 08:00 am

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