Florida is the only state without a clear vaccination plan. DeSantis says it’s better that way

The state has vaccinated more than 2.7 million people with 2 million of those 65 and older.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Ian has been working at a Jacksonville grocery store since the coronavirus first hit last spring.

As businesses were shutting down at the beginning of the pandemic, his grocery store remained open and at times became frantic.

“There, for sure, was a fear of catching COVID and in the beginning, I can say I was fearful, and I still somewhat am,” said Ian, 25. “Like most people, I’m awaiting my chance at a vaccine, not only for myself but for my friends and family.”

But it’s unclear when that will be.

Florida is the only state that has not published an official plan for who will get shots next, when more doses become available, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit focused on national health issues. The analysis was first reported by the Tampa Bay Times.

Since December, when vaccines first became available in Florida, Gov. Ron Desantis established that residents 65 and up, long-term care facilities staff and residents and frontline workers would be the first groups to receive the vaccine.

The state has since vaccinated more than 2.7 million people with 2 million of those 65 and older.

RELATED: Nearly 74% of seniors in St. Johns County have received coronavirus vaccine, data shows

In a press conference Wednesday, when asked when he would authorize another priority group to receive vaccines, Desantis said, “Once we see senior population demand go down, then we are obviously going to lower the age and get people that are minimum 60 and then maybe even 55.”

“It really depends on if we have the supply,” DeSantis added.

Although Gov. Desantis has not released an official plan for the next priority group to be vaccinated in Florida, DeSantis repeated his announcement from Tuesday that law enforcement and classroom teachers who are over 50 will have an opportunity to be vaccinated at federal sites opening in the state next week.

“We think we can do that given the additional vaccine without it impinging on the senior population,” DeSantis said.

Jen Kates is the Senior Vice President of Global Health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. Kates says Gov. Desantis’s announcement about federal vaccine sites is the first sign they have seen that Florida is starting to expand plans for who is eligible to be vaccinated.

“Maybe that’s a hint that it is where they are headed next. I think it just what we’ve seen is that there’s a lot of demand out there and anxiety among different populations wanting to know when they’re next and how long they might need to wait,” said Kates. “Part of this is just alerting the public about the plan and thus far, Florida is the only state that has not laid that out yet.”

Wednesday, Gov. Desantis pushed back on criticism about his administration not laying out their priority group for the next phase of the vaccine rollout, unlike other states.

“If you notice, many of those folks adopted plans and then they’ve already had to change the plans. We have not done that. We looked at the recommendations from ACIP and CDC and we respectively rejected those and said we are putting our seniors first,” DeSantis said.

On Dec. 20, the Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices recommended states prioritize non-healthcare workers for the next phase, phase 1B, of their vaccine rollout. Then, prioritize those 16 and older with high-risk medical conditions in phase 1C.

So far, three states have made plans to follow that recommendation for the second phase of its vaccine rollout, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. KFF found 47 states established priority groups for its second phase of rollout differing from the federal recommendations.

DeSantis said Wednesday his administration does not want to open up vaccinations to more groups and not have the supply available to meet the demand.

“We are going to do it based on the facts and circumstances on the ground. Based on the vaccine availability and based on the progress of getting through the 65 and older population,” DeSantis said.

About the Author:

Kelly Wiley, an award-winning investigative reporter, joined the News4Jax I-Team in June 2019.