TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Cap News Services) – The Florida Department of Health is no longer publishing the number of people who are overdue for their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Department says the number was causing confusion, but some state lawmakers argue the move is yet another example of a lack of transparency.
High demand and low supply continues to plague the COVID vaccine rollout.
“People are calling my office desperate, yelling, screaming. Elderly, infirm, sick people and they can’t get a vaccine,” said State Senator Lori Berman.
Some hospitals have stopped giving out first doses to ensure an adequate supply for those who are eligible for booster shots.
As of the last reported numbers, there were more than 40,000 Floridians classified as overdue for their second shot.
To the dismay of some Florida lawmakers, the Department of Health decided Wednesday to stop publishing those statistics.
“You know, the more data the better to help our government make informed decisions and for the public to hold the government accountable,” said state Representative Anna Eskamani.
In an emailed statement, the DOH says the decision to stop reporting the numbers is two fold.
One, it said the stats aren’t reported by the CDC, and two, it said the designation was misleading.
“This number is being removed to align with CDC reporting, which only includes information on first dose and series complete (first and second dose),” said Jason Mahon, Interm DOH Communications Director. “This number is being removed as it may cause confusion related to the following CDC guidance.”
That guidance from the CDC said in part, “There is no maximum interval between the first and second doses for either vaccine.”
Mahon said it means no one is in fact ‘overdue’.
“No one is overdue for their second dose, but rather, will be eligible for their second dose. The Department of Health continues to recommend that individuals receive their second dose at 28 days for the Moderna vaccine, or 21 days for the Pfizer vaccine,” said Mahon.
Some lawmakers still argue it would be beneficial to know how many people who are eligible for the second dose are in the pipeline.
“So that we can provide clarity and comfort and answers to Floridians that are waiting their turn,” said Eskamani. “Not providing insight into how many people need a second booster shot impacts the timeline for when our teachers can get vaccinated, for when our essential workers can get vaccinated. At this point we’re operating without a transparent plan.”
The lawmakers we spoke with also said they are hopeful the new Biden administration will work to ramp up vaccine production and better communicate to the states how many vaccines they can expect to receive on a long-term basis.
We did ask for an interview with the Surgeon General and the Director of the Division of Emergency Management for this story to provide more clarity, but our requests went unanswered.