DeSantis breaks with CDC, says Florida seniors next in line to receive COVID-19 vaccine

“If you’re in the elderly population, this is coming soon,” DeSantis said.

THE VILLAGES, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday the next phase of COVID-19 vaccinations in Florida will include senior citizens around the state.

“In Florida, we’ve got to put our parents and grandparents first and that’s what we’re going to be doing,” DeSantis said. “And we’re going to work like hell to be able to get all the vaccines out to elderly who want it.”

“We are not going to put young, healthy workers ahead of our elderly vulnerable population,” he continued.

A group of seniors in The Villages were vaccinated during the DeSantis press conference at UF Health.

“These are probably the first members of the community who are senior citizens to be to be vaccinated, maybe anywhere in the country but certainly in Florida,” DeSantis said of the group. “This is kind of a preview of what we’re gonna be seeing an awful lot of hopefully over the next weeks and months.”

DeSantis, who said people over 70 years old will be prioritized, didn’t offer a concrete timetable but said the state will be releasing additional plans soon including plans for community vaccination sites that will be available for older individuals.

The plan is a break from the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

After healthcare workers and residents of long term, the next groups recommended for vaccine priority are not just people 75 years old and up, but several groups such as first responders, USPS employees, grocery store workers and teachers. The CDC then recommends people between 65 to 74 years old, people ages 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions along with other essential workers, including food service workers, construction, bank tellers, IT & communications, public safety and media.

But the decision of who actually gets the vaccine next falls on the states.

Previously, Florida has been focusing on administering vaccines to frontline health care workers and those living and working in long term care facilities. Last week, Florida received 179,400 doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, which was used for those groups.

DeSantis said Tuesday that healthcare workers have distributed the vaccine to over 100 long term care facilities in Broward and Pinellas counties.

“I think once we offer it to elderly — and particularly if we get a Johnson & Johnson approval which is one dose — I think you’re going to be able to offer it broadly and I think some of the key areas, whether it’s law enforcement, fire, whether it’s teachers, I think that they will have access,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis said this week, the state got an additional 127,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and by the end of Tuesday, the state should have 367,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine.

About 4.4 million Florida residents are over the age of 65 and more than 3 million are over 70, DeSantis said.

“It’s going to be reserved for you,” DeSantis said addressing Florida’s seniors. “But not everyone’s going to be able to do it on day one. It’s going to take some time to be able to make sure everybody has access.”

About the Authors: