Jacskon Health System books 12,000 appointments in 3 hours.jpg

DeSantis: “We don’t believe it’s time to rest.” 

Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he plans to ramp up COVID vaccine distribution by adding community sites such as churches and other state-run facilities, while putting pressure on Florida hospitals to administer vaccines quickly.

“We don’t believe it’s time to rest,” DeSantis said at press conference Monday at the Orlando Health South Seminole Hospital.

About 80 percent of COVID-19 vaccines have been distributed through Florida hospitals, DeSantis said. “We really view the hospitals as the front line of this,” he said.

But he warned that those hospitals in the state that don’t “do a good job of getting the vaccine out” will see a reduction of vaccine doses — and those vaccines would be transferred to hospitals that are administering them quickly.

“We do not want vaccines just to be idle at some hospital system,” he said.

DeSantis has been prioritizing the vaccinations for seniors 65 and older.

That said, nearly 4.5-million people are 65 and older in Florida, according to U.S. Census data. So far, 77,472 people aged 65 and older have gotten the shots, the Florida Department of Health reported Monday.

Overall, 260,655 people have been vaccinated, the department said. That includes frontline health care workers.

On Tuesday, Jackson Health Systems launched a website for county residents, 65 and over, to book their vaccination appointment. The site was operational by 9 a.m. Tuesday and in a Twitter post, Jackson Health System announced they had booked more than 12,000 vaccine appointments by Noon.

Jackson books over 12,000 vaccination appointments by Noon Tuesday

They advised residents wishing to make an appointment to continue to check their Twitter account as they will “continue to open more slots as we receive additional vaccines.” The system Twitter account - @jacksonhealth – can be accessed by clicking here.

Jackson Health System CEO Carlos Migoya said the goal is to vaccinate 2,000 seniors per day at first. This number would be increased as time goes by.

To increase vaccine distribution, the governor said that some state-run COVID-19 test sites will be converted into vaccination sites.

DeSantis also added that the state will identity certain churches and other places of worship as vaccine sites and find ways to distribute vaccines in long-term care facilities.

“These are sites that are generally pretty large, have a lot of parking capacity and have drive-thru capacity…we need to add additional layers to the vaccination strategy, we believe we’ll have enough doses to do that,” he said.

DeSantis was joined by David Strong, president and CEO at Orlando Health, Dr. George Ralls, CMO at Orlando Health and others at the press conference where five people received a Moderna vaccine shot live on-camera.

You can watch the Governor’s press conference by clicking here.

Those individuals inoculated included first responders and three seniors.

The governor reiterated that vaccines will be reserved for those 65 years of age or older, plus health care workers, staff and residents of long-term care facilities.

“I think what we want to be clear going forward as it relates to the general public, we really believe it’s important to put our seniors first,” DeSantis said. “And that’s what we are going to be doing.”

This report first appeared on the website of the Florida Phoenix, a nonprofit news organization dedicated to coverage of state government and politics from Tallahassee. It has been supplemented by Islander News reporting.