By Team

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) — Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees has urged the federal government to rethink its distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine so that states with large populations of seniors who are at high-risk are given priority.

Florida has 4.4 million residents who are at least 65 years old — the second-highest of any state.

READ MORE: Johnson & Johnson Single-Shot COVID-19 Vaccine Joining In The Fight Against Global Pandemic

As it stands, the federal government is distributing vaccines based on a state’s adult population.

It will be many months before all Floridians can be vaccinated. With 21.5 million people, Florida is the country’s third most populous state.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Rivkees sought to reassure Floridians that their turn will come for the life-saving vaccine, which has been in short supply since being rolled out last month.

“The message is this: We will get to you,” Rivkees said in the telephone interview. “We are in a situation where we are awaiting additional supply, and as more supply gets available, we will get it to those of you in the public.”

Trending On
Florida’s Republican Senators Make Their Biden Administration Critiques Known On Day 1
South Florida Man Sees Capitol Riot Arrest As ‘A Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Moment For Me’
Trump Supporters Welcome Him Back To Palm Beach

The first rounds of vaccines were reserved for health care workers and other first responders. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has given priority to seniors 65 and older for the next round of vaccinations, prompting long lines, overwhelmed appointment portals, and growing frustration among seniors eager to get vaccinated. Many have found themselves turned away because there haven’t been enough vaccine doses to go around.

Because of the uncertainty of supplies, some hospitals have stopped administering the first dose of the vaccine. Baptist Health canceled all first-dose vaccinations until further notice because of dwindling access to the vaccine.

The state has vaccinated at least 1.1 million people so far, with many millions of additional doses needed to inoculate the state from a persistent virus that has infected some 1.6 million people in Florida and killed more than 24,500 — 83% of them 65 or older.

READ MORE: South Florida House Republicans Vote Against President Biden's $1.9 Trillion Pandemic Relief Package

According to state health officials, the state has received just 1.7 million first doses of the two vaccines approved by the federal government to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.

“We’re using every resource available at our disposal to get individuals vaccinated as quickly and as safely as possible based upon the available vaccine supply,” Rivkees said.

The surgeon general said the state has little choice but to wait for the federal government — and vaccine manufacturers — to increase vaccine allotments being sent to the states.

Critics of the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak acknowledge that DeSantis and his administration have little control over the vaccine supply, but they say some of the chaos that greeted the release of the first rounds could have been avoided with better planning.

“I think there is a common concern that we desperately need more of the vaccines,” said state Democratic Rep. Anna Eskaman. “There wasn’t a long-term plan put in place. If there’s a delay for seniors now, there will be a delay for everyone — and it just makes our path to recovery that much harder.”

With the state already having trouble getting the vaccine to seniors, she said, it will be even more challenging to get it to the broader population without a statewide system to handle the impending demand.

State officials have said they are working on establishing a registration portal to help counties administer the vaccine to the public.

Last week, federal health officials had discussed revamping the distribution model to favor states with higher concentrations of older residents.

“If that happens, then certainly we would anticipate additional vaccine,” Rivkees said. “But this is something we are waiting on for further guidance.”

MORE NEWS: Trump A Dominant Force At Conservative Conference In Orlando

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.) Team