Florida officials detail plan to promote COVID-19 vaccine as safe

'We're fighting an uphill battle,' state emergency management director says
Posted at 7:46 PM, Dec 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-14 19:46:06-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — With coronavirus vaccine shots now going in Floridians' arms, the next step will be getting enough people to take them once doses are readily available.

State officials are now shedding light on their plan to ease vaccine doubts. Florida Health will soon launch a communication campaign with the Division of Emergency Management, according to Department of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz.

He said to expect vaccine safety messages on television, radio and social media. The money, Moskowitz said, will come from a $1.6 million communications grant.

The director said special attention would also be given to communities of color, which research suggests are most apprehensive.

"We know that we're going to need validators in those communities," said Moskowitz. "People that they trust -- messengers that they listen to, showing them that the vaccine is safe. So, we know we're fighting an uphill battle."

WEB EXTRA: Florida Department of Emergency Management Director outlines next steps in distribution of COVID-19 vaccine

Epidemiologist Mary Jo Trepka, with Florida International University, said the nation would need between 80-85% vaccine participation to ensure herd immunity.

"The trials were done in a very large number of people. The vaccine, I think, we should be very happy that the vaccine is so effective," she said. "It’s going to be our key to get out of the mess that we're in."

Mary Jo Trepka, Florida International University epidemiologist
"I think we should be very happy that the vaccine is so effective," Florida International University epidemiologist Mary Jo Trepka said.

Recent polling suggests it might be challenging to achieve a massive turnout, however. ABC News/IPSOS datashows that only 40% of Americans plan to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Almost half, 44%, want to wait a bit, particularly minorities 52%.

State officials said enough vaccine supply to conduct mass immunization in Florida isn't expected until next year, February or March. Trepka hopes by then, public sentiments toward inoculation will have improved.

"I think as people start to see these initial groups of people get vaccinated, they'll get more comfortable with it," Trepka said. "And, frankly, they're going to encounter more who've gotten COVID."