“I wish I had a crystal ball and I can tell what the future is going to be and what the demands are going to be,” said Kevin Guthrie.
He’s the new director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, which is tasked with the state’s response for disasters like hurricanes. For more than a year, the division has also worked with the Florida Department of Health to handle the pandemic.
He expects the division will have a minimal role in vaccine distribution by 2022 — if not sooner — because it’s already moving from emergency to “non-emergency mode.”
State-run testing sites have already closed, with state-run vaccine sites phasing out in June. Each county will still have the option to convert the state-run vaccine sites to county-run sites to keep them open.
The changes are part of Florida’s plan to leave vaccine distribution to county health departments and local providers, including doctors’ offices, pharmacies and clinics.
Guthrie said the division is moving away from distribution because vaccine sites are no longer overwhelmed by long lines or crashing online appointment schedulers. Cases are going down and people can get a vaccine as easily as they would a flu shot. More than 10 million people in Florida have already received at least one dose.
And when a provider asks the state for more shots, the request is filled within 48 to 72 hours, according to the division.
Guthrie said the state is still in a “wait and see approach” about booster shots. But if counties need boosters, the division will be ready to help operate vaccine sites again, this time for boosters.
He also said the state will “continue to make sure anybody that wants a vaccine, gets the vaccine.”
What will hospital visits be like?