02:56 - Source: CNN
Families reunite as nursing homes ease visitation restrictions
Pompano Beach, Florida CNN  — 

After Covid-19 ravaged nursing homes nationwide, claiming victims without loved ones nearby, seniors at a long-term care facility in Florida started getting vaccinated Wednesday.

About 90 of the most vulnerable residents and 80 health care staffers received their first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine at John Knox Village, the senior living community said.

Vera Leip, 88, has lived there for 16 years. She was among the first seniors in Florida to get vaccinated Wednesday.

Vera Leip was among the first to get a vaccine at John Knox Village in Broward County, Florida.

Leip was supposed to get her dose around 9 a.m., but her vaccination was delayed until after Gov. Ron DeSantis arrived around 1 p.m.

DeSantis left without taking questions from reporters.

Across the state, seniors have been hit hard by this pandemic.

While residents 65 and older make up about 14% of Florida’s Covid-19 cases, they account for roughly 83% of the 20,000+ coronavirus deaths in the state, according to Florida Department of Health data.

And 39% of the state’s Covid-19 deaths are linked to long-term care facilities – including residents and health care workers.

Now, the state is grappling with a post-Thanksgiving surge of new infections.

Since Thanksgiving, Covid-19 hospitalizations in Florida have soared 37%, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

DeSantis announced last week that at least 21,450 vaccine doses will go to long-term care facilities, with more expected in the coming days.

Those initial 21,450 doses went to care facilities in two counties: Pinellas and Broward, according to the Florida Health Care Association.

Initial shipments of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine have been distributed to all 50 states. And health officials hope another vaccine, this one from Moderna, will soon get emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration.

But with limited supplies, it will be several months before most of the American public can get a Covid-19 vaccine.