Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state of Florida has been planning and preparing its plan for distributing coronavirus vaccines, which he hopes will be approved by the FDA and received by the end of December.
In a statement Thursday, DeSantis said the state has been preparing for vaccines since July and has been purchasing supplies, including purchasing five million syringes, five million needles and five million alcohol swabs to-date.
Both Pfizer and Moderna have reported vaccines with around 95% effectiveness in recent weeks, but both are awaiting FDA approval.
Pfizer's vaccine requires that it be stored in ultracold temperatures, and Florida has identified five different hospital systems who have the ability to store the vaccine at those temperatures, DeSantis said.
DeSantis said that as soon as the FDA approves the vaccines, 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," the governor said.
Around the same time hospitals are receiving the vaccine, both CVS and Walgreens will also begin receiving the vaccine to administer to residents of long-term care facilities, DeSantis said. He said that so far, nearly 2,000 long-term care facilities have registered so that they can start getting their residents vaccinated as soon as the vaccine arrives.
The governor said the state won't force anyone to receive the vaccine.
"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. That is going to be the choice of each and every Floridian," DeSantis said.
In addition to the vaccines, the governor said the state has received more than 3,000 doses in the past few days of a new therapeutic developed by Eli Lilly that's administered to COVID-19 patients through an IV.
He said the federal government and the Health and Human Services department plans on sending a similar amount of the antibody cocktail every week for the forseeable future.
"I’ve spoken with a number of hospital CEOs and I’m pleased to report that many have already received the treatment and are moving forward administering the treatment," DeSantis said.
Florida has seen a recent climb in COVID-19 infections, along with an increase in hospitalizations and virus-related deaths, leading some of the state's mayors to call on DeSantis to change his approach to the virus. DeSantis' statement didn't address the mayors' concerns.
The governor said he hoped to have more updates on the vaccines soon.
"I do believe that these breakthroughs represent probably the greatest rays of hope that we have seen since the pandemic began," DeSantis said. "They offer the prospect of saving thousands and thousands of lives, and to potentially bring this pandemic to an end."