While senior citizens across the state are now getting the COVID-19 vaccine, many in assisted living facilities are still waiting their turn.

What You Need To Know

  • Gov. DeSantis said long-term care facilities were top priority for vaccines

  • Florida Assisted Living Association says general public received vaccines before ALFs

  • Walgreens and CVS are now contacting ALFs to start scheduling vaccinations

Governor Ron DeSantis’s initial plan was to put those in long-term care at the very front of the line and he said “the top priority will be our residents of our long-term care facilities. They are at the greatest risk.”

On Wednesday, DeSantis held a news conference at Kings Point, a retirement community in Palm Beach County, where vaccinations began for members of the public 65 years and older.

Last week, the governor held a similar news conference at The Villages in Sumter County.

Veronica Catoe, the CEO of the Florida Assisted Living Association (FALA) said she was surprised to see those vaccinations get underway, considering the governor had yet to authorize the start of vaccinations in assisted living facilities.

“You’ve been saying long-term care facilities are going to be number one. What happened to that?” Catoe asked.

FALA represents more than 650 assisted living facilities statewide, and Catoe said she soon began fielding questions from members asking why vaccines were being given to the general public before their facilities had even been scheduled. 

“If the department of health had felt that living in communal environments made them higher risk, you would think that’s where we would send the vaccines,” Catoe said. 

In an effort to find out more about the delay, Catoe sent this letter to the Governor’s office:

Catoe said she never heard back from the governor or his staff, but on Tuesday, she learned the state finally gave the go ahead for the Walgreens and CVS partnership program to begin vaccinations at assisted living facilities. Catoe said a handful of facilities have been contacted by the pharmacies about getting on the vaccination schedule in the coming days and weeks.

“I’m passionate about making sure those who want the vaccine get the vaccine at all age levels,” Catoe explained. “But when you say our seniors in our long term care communities are first, then let’s start there.”

A spokesperson for the Florida Senior Living Association, which represents about 450 assisted living facilities statewide, said leaders there were also under the impression vaccinations would start in assisted living facilities before the general public.  

“I think that was our understanding too. And I think it’s one of those situations where we’re not entirely sure what happened,” Sandy Poreda said. “But regardless of what happened, it’s coming to us now.”

Spectrum News reached out to the Governor’s office, the Florida Division of Emergency Management and the Florida Department of Health multiple times but have yet to receive any clarification on the issue.