HIALEAH – Teachers and sworn law enforcement officers will soon be able to receive the coronavirus vaccine at Florida’s federal vaccine sites, including one coming to Jacksonville.
Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday said the vaccines will likely be available to teachers, firefighters and law enforcement employees ages 50 and older. The sites are expected to open next week, DeSantis said.
“Our goal is to be able to get that as more vaccine becomes available and I think we’re going to have the ability to do that between these federally supported sites, and some of the new vaccine that may be coming online, very, very soon,” DeSantis said.
Four federally-supported vaccination stations are set to open in Florida next month including at Gateway Mall on Jacksonville’s Northside.
That announcement comes more than six months after schools reopened for the fall semester and it’s the first time DeSantis singled out teachers for vaccine priority.
It’s encouraging news for educators like Mike Melaugh who teaches at James Weldon Johnson College Preparatory Middle School in Duval County.
“Well, it’s exciting to me, I’ve had health issues, like many people over the age of 50. And the fact that I can now hopefully be safe about getting this virus is literally fantastic,” Melaugh said.
Steve Zona, who heads the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, said Tuesday’s announcement was welcome news.
“Obviously, we’re thankful,” Zona said. “We’re thankful that the governor is now including law enforcement, even though it’s just 50. And upping the distribution of the vaccine. I mean, we appreciate the difficulties he’s had with a limited supply and wanted to target the most vulnerable in our community.”
The sites in Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando and Tampa -- a partnership of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Defense, the National Guard and the state of Florida -- will open March 3, be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week and are capable of administering 2,000 does per day. Additionally, each site will have two smaller, mobile satellite sites that will conduct 500 vaccinations per day in underserved areas.
The current public vaccination site in Jacksonville, which is run by the Florida Department of Health at Regency Square and only vaccinating seniors 65 and up, is averaging 1,000 vaccinations each day.
DeSantis said as the vaccine supply increases and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine gets approved, even more people will be able to receive the vaccine in the coming months.
The state will utilize the current preregistration system and work with local community organizations to proactively schedule appointments at the federal sites. To preregister with the statewide system, individuals can call the Duval County vaccine booking number -- 866-200-3762 -- or the designated phone number for their county or visit myvaccine.fl.gov.
DeSantis said 15 traditional CVS stores across Florida would also begin administering the vaccine to seniors in underserved areas at stores in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Collier, Hillsborough, Manatee, Hendry, Polk, St. Lucie, Volusia, Flagler, Gadsden and Escambia counties.
Once appointments are made CVS vaccinations will begin later this week, DeSantis said.
DeSantis had said he would open up vaccinations to larger populations of Floridians once senior demand slowed down. As of Tuesday, DeSantis said nearly 50% of all seniors in the state had received at least one shot.
Florida teachers unions and others have pressured DeSantis to offer the vaccine to teachers, citing CDC recommendations, but DeSantis has said the state will focus on seniors because they have an increased chance of experiencing serious health complications due to the coronavirus.