TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has announced a statewide vaccine distribution plan.
In a video message released Thursday afternoon, DeSantis said the federal government expects there will be roughly 40 million combined doses of the two vaccines being produced by Pfizer and Moderna. DeSantis did not say how many would be available for Floridians, though he’s hopeful the shipments could begin arriving by the end of the year, pending the FDA’s approval of both drugs.
“The good thing about this is millions of doses are ready to ship as we speak,” said DeSantis. “As soon as the FDA approves, they will then go out within the next 24 hours. We expect our hospitals, hopefully, to receive these within the next 3 to 6 weeks. It is all contingent on when the FDA approves.”
DeSantis also touched on a new therapeutic developed by Eli Lilly. He said the treatment is a monoclonal antibody cocktail, which is administered through an IV. It takes about an hour for the IV to be administered, and then an hour to observe the patient afterward. It is best used for people who are at high risk of severe complications from COVID-19.
The governor added in his video that Florida residents will not be mandated to take either vaccine when they are made available.
“Our goal is to make all safe and effective COVID vaccines available to Floridians who want them, but the state will not mandate that Floridians take these vaccines,” said DeSantis. “That is going to be the choice of each and every Floridian.”
DeSantis has come under fire in recent weeks for avoiding the state’s climbing coronavirus case count.
On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of Florida mayors criticized DeSantis for failing to address the latest surge in cases, which has climbed by more than 40,000 in the last week.
The video message released Thursday to social media is DeSantis’ first comments on Florida’s coronavirus response in weeks, although he did so without taking any questions from the media.
DeSantis says he recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with various federal officials on plans for the vaccine.
Pfizer announced last week its vaccine is about 95% effective and Moderna said Monday it’s is nearly 95% effective, which health experts have called an “exciting” development.
“I do believe that these breakthroughs represent probably the greatest rays of hope that we have seen since the pandemic began,” said DeSantis. “They offer the prospect of saving thousands and thousands of lives, and to potentially bring this pandemic to an end.”
DeSantis’ announcement comes on the same day the CDC issued a recommendation that Americans should not travel during the Thanksgiving holiday next week to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as cases of the virus spike around the country.