JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida opened up COVID-19 vaccinations to anyone age 60 and up on Monday. While the lowering of the age from 65 was expected to bring a new wave of people to state and federal sites and prompt more signups for shots at retail pharmacies, the lines to get vaccinated continued to be short.
At the vaccination site run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency at Gateway Mall, many people told News4Jax on Monday that they’ve been anxious to get vaccinated and were surprised to see the line so short.
Arvia Gilmore said she was shocked that there was no wait and plenty of shots to go around when she arrived at the site to get vaccinated.
“Just let the people get the shot,” Gilmore said.
News4Jax also checked the vaccination site run by the state at Regency Square Mall on Monday and found the line was short and no appointments were needed.
The latest Florida Department of Health statistics show that statewide, 4,252,250 people have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. A total of 2,279,646 have complete their shot regiment, whether it is the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna options.
Florida has more than 21.4 million residents, including 17.7 million residents who are age 16 and up and would be eligible for at least one of the vaccine options if there were no age restrictions imposed by the state.
The expanded age criteria comes as Florida on Monday reported 99 more coronavirus-related deaths for a total of 32,959. The state also reported 2,826 additional COVID-19 cases to bring the total to 1,979,634.
The lowering of the age to 60 to be vaccinated is in addition to continuing to vaccinate frontline health care workers, school personnel, law enforcement and firefighters age 50 older, people of any age with a doctor’s note certifying they are extremely vulnerable to COVID-19, and caregivers of anyone eligible for the vaccine.
David Cox, who got a shot at the vaccination site at Gateway Mall, said it’s time to lower the age requirement even more.
“I think they should,” Cox said. “People are dying because you’re just being ignorant and they’re blaming it on ‘I can’t get enough.’”
Larry Jones, 64, said he knows the concerns that many African Americans have about getting vaccinated. But he said they should not wait and he believes the Gateway Mall site should be opened up to all age groups now.
“I think the sooner they lower it, the more people will get vaccinated,” Jones told News4Jax after he got vaccinated.
DeSantis said last week that after the state made people 60 and older eligible for the vaccine, it will soon lower the age to 55 and then probably open it up to the rest of the population.
In addition to the large vaccination sites at Gateway Mall and Regency Square Mall, two smaller federal vaccination sites opened Sunday at the Carver Center in Jacksonville Beach and the Oceanway Center on Jacksonville’s Northside.
The Gateway Mall site is expected to be open until May 3. Workers hope it will become busier as age restrictions are reduced even more.
Vaccination appointments are also available at most Publix and Walmart pharmacies and some Winn-Dixie, CVS and Walmart stores. Visit myvaccine.fl.gov to find a site near you.