Florida's vaccination rollout focuses on curbing deaths before curbing community spread

Posted at 5:42 PM, Jan 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-21 18:55:21-05

TAMPA, Fla. — — Vaccination plans differ state by state, despite the CDC's recommended rollout. But the CDC's recommendations are not a "one-size-fits-all," which is why states are making decisions based on their overall population.

Florida's vaccination strategy differs slightly from the CDC's phased recommendations, but Jason Salemi, an Associate Professor of Epidemiology at USF explains that it's a tough decision to make.

The CDC's recommendations put people in Phases 1, 2, and 3.

CDC's recommended vaccine rollout phases
CDC's recommended vaccine rollout phases

But Phase 1 is broken down even further, to Phases 1a, 1b, and 1c.

CDC's recommended vaccine rollout phases
CDC's recommended vaccine rollout phases

It's a balance aimed at preventing death, while also attempting to curb transmission of the virus.

Here in the Sunshine State, Salemi says the focus seems to be mostly on preventing death.

“Florida and their adoption of vaccinating people 65-and-older first, and not essential workers, we are taking a strategy that will curb deaths from COVID-19, more so than curbing community spread,” said Salemi.

Those in the 65-and-older age group make up around 20 percent of Florida's population.

Looking at case fatality rate by age for those who test positive for the virus:

  • those ages 65-74 have a 1-in-17 chance of dying;
  • those 75-84 have a 1-in-7 chance of dying;
  • those 85+ have a 1-in-4 chance of dying.

“I think choosing the 65-and-older population to vaccinate first was probably a wise decision because of Florida’s situation. Although I certainly understand all of our frontline, essential workers, teachers, being upset at that because it’s certainly true that, again, older people are most likely to die, but essential workers are at the highest risk of exposure to the virus.” said Salemi.

According to CDC data, Florida has administered nearly 50 percent of the state's 2.5 million current vaccine doses.

“We’ve vaccinated 1 in every 6 people in Florida, 65 years of age and older,” said Salemi.

And the sooner we close that gap, the sooner those essential workers will have the option to get a vaccination.

“If we start to vaccinate that population, that’s where we’ll realize the biggest gains in reducing community spread,” said Salemi.