JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that the age for Florida residents who can receive the coronavirus vaccine will be lowered “sometime in March.”
Right now, the state is prioritizing people 65 years of age and older along with health care personnel, residents and staff of long-term care facilities and those found to be extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 by hospital providers.
“I’ve said from the beginning, we are going to lower the age, and as soon as we’re in a situation where the seniors are being taken care of, you know, we’re going to look to do that,” DeSantis said during a press conference in Jacksonville to announce a new site. “So it’s going to happen, I would say, without question, barring any problems with the vaccine distribution, you’re going to see the age lower at some time in March, for sure.”
During a second Thursday press conference in Fort Pierce, DeSantis expounded on the future plans.
“As soon as we see the demand peter down from the seniors, then we obviously want to open it up to be able to get more focused so that’ll be at a minimum 60-plus,” DeSantis said. “We’re also going to be working with law enforcement and some of the classroom teacher personnel to be able to get that done in the relatively near future.”
He said that plan is contingent on the state receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and getting more vaccines from Pfizer, which is expected over the coming weeks.
“I don’t want to say it’s going to be starting next Thursday, and then come to find out that the vaccines aren’t in a position or that we have too much demand for seniors,” DeSantis said. “Because what’s going to happen is the minute you lower the age, whether it’s 60 or 55, there’s gonna be a lot of those people that are going to crush the system and so if we still have folks that are 68 and 78 that are still trying to get on, I don’t want to end up drowning them out.”
DeSantis said as soon as the state has the metrics to justify it, the state will let people know.
The governor has received criticism in recent days following reports that Florida is the only state that has not published an official plan for who will get shots when more doses become available.
“I would point out, people say, ‘Oh, well these other states have all these plans of when they’re going to do it.’ A lot of those plans haven’t worked out,” DeSantis said Thursday while announcing a new state-run site targeting the largely minority community surrounding EWC. “I mean, they’ve had to change their criteria from the beginning. They had plans in December, had to shift, most of them have shifted to doing what Florida is doing and so we’re gonna continue with seniors first.”
DeSantis did announce this week that classroom teachers and sworn law enforcement officers 50 and older will be eligible for the vaccine at new federal vaccination sites that will open next week, including one in Jacksonville, but that doesn’t apply to state-run sites, for now.
As of this week, about 50% of the approximately 4.5 million seniors in the state have received at least one shot.
DeSantis said the long-anticipated vaccine from Johnson & Johnson could offer the nation a third vaccine option and help speed vaccinations in Florida by requiring just one dose instead of two.