JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – All Floridians age 50 and up became eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine starting Monday.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday modified his executive order lowering the age, saying nearly 70% of Florida’s seniors have been vaccinated and demand is dropping among those currently eligible for shots.
Through Sunday, only people age 60 and up, health care workers, school employees, first responders age 50 and older, and people deemed medically vulnerable to COVID-19 by a doctor were eligible for shots in Florida.
“We’re excited about the progress,” DeSantis said. “I think the demand is softened enough that opening up to 50-plus will be good. We’ll monitor to see how next week goes.”
There were long lines waiting when the Federal Emergency Management Agency vaccination site at the Gateway Mall opened Monday morning -- longer lines than seen since the site opened weeks ago. There was also extra security and a television production company was setting up in anticipation of Vice President Kamala Harris stopping by the site Monday afternoon during a visit to Jacksonville.
“It was very easy,” Linda Knight said after getting her first dose. “They explained everything before they did it to me and then they sat me down for 15 minutes so that when I stand up, they know that I was already. When I stood up, I looked at that young man I said, ‘I feel good!’”
Later in the day, before Harris’ visit to the site, there were smaller lines. News4Jax photographer Kevin Talley was eligible to get the vaccine Monday and breezed right through in less than 20 minutes.
“I am surprised how efficient it is. It’s not a waste of time. You go in, you give them your information, they give you a shot,” he said. “You’re in there 20 minutes. You’ve got a wait 15 minutes afterward for a reaction. It’s efficient.”
Mercedes Parker, who got vaccinated at the site, believes like many others that age restrictions should be dropped altogether.
“I believe they should have everyone have a chance to get vaccinated,” Parker said.
DeSantis has said the next step will be to open up vaccinations to anybody who wants one.
“I can’t tell you when exactly that will happen, but I can tell you it will definitely be before May 1. That’s not even a question, so stay tuned on that,” DeSantis said.
About 11 a.m. Monday at the state-run vaccination site at Regency Square Mall, there was no line.
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As of Sunday, the Florida Department of Health said, 4,911,786 people have received at least one vaccine dose and 2,713,248 are totally vaccinated -- that’s nearly 22% of all adults in the state.
DeSantis’ announcement came the day after Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said he’s making vaccines available to people age 40 and up in the Orlando area that’s home to several major theme parks. DeSantis criticized the decision.
“It's not his decision to make,” DeSantis said. “Orange County is below the state average in seniors vaccinated. They're at 63%. Trying to do healthy 40-year-olds over finding maybe some more seniors, to me, would not be the direction I would go.”
On Friday morning, Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava announced that the county-run vaccination sites will open March 29 to anyone age 40 and older.
On Saturday, Florida surpassed 2 million cases of COVID-19 since the first cases were identified on March 1, 2020.