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With J&J vaccine on the way, DeSantis expands eligibility to police, school employees 50+

BIG changes, to the list of WHO is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. Now – some school personnel and more first responders can receive a shot. In case you missed it this weekend -- certain people with pre-existing conditions can be given their vaccines, at more pharmacies. News4jax reporter Kelly Wiley joins us LIVE to break down who exactly qualifies

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With about 175,000 doses of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine expected to arrive in Florida this week, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order Monday that will expand state vaccinations to school personnel, law enforcement and firefighters 50 years old and older.

But, DeSantis said it’s still unclear exactly when the vaccine will arrive and how much will be included.

“We don’t know for sure whether we will definitely get it this week but we think we probably will. We don’t know exactly how much, but tentatively, the numbers that we’re looking at for Johnson & Johnson shipment to Florida this week is 175,000 doses,” DeSantis said. “We do believe that J&J is perfect for law enforcement agencies, other workforces because you don’t have to worry about coming back and scheduling a second appointment.”

Still, DeSantis announced Monday morning he planned to sign the executive order to expand the vaccine age to those groups later in the day.

“We probably could do all of that 50 up K-12 personnel and police, fire, with just our [Johnson & Johnson] shipment,” DeSantis said.

According to the Florida Association of Public Information Officers, the qualifications will change for the Regency Mall testing site to reflect the order starting Wednesday.

RELATED: Qualifications to get COVID-19 vaccine at Regency site changing

More people in Florida will now have access to COVID-19 vaccines. Governor Ron DeSantis changed the rules today about who is eligible to get vaccinated in the state.

DeSantis said the state will be able to offer to the new groups because of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine as well as the expected increase in Pfizer vaccine and the opening of four federal vaccination sites, including one in Jacksonville. He announced last week a similar expansion of age at the four federal vaccination sites opening in Florida this week, including one at Gateway Mall.

The state is still prioritizing persons 65 years of age and older and health care personnel with direct patient contact and residents and staff of long-term care facilities. On Friday, DeSantis quietly released a different executive order to begin allowing people under age 65 to receive vaccines if a physician determines they have prior conditions that put them at risk for coronavirus complications.

DeSantis said that as the demand for the vaccine softens, seniors should have an easier time registering for appointments at locations across the state.

“So, if you haven’t been able to do it, give it a shot now. I think it is getting a little bit easier and I think every day that goes by as new seniors get shots, I think it’s going to be the same thing,” DeSantis said.

Nearly 4 million doses of the newest COVID-19 vaccine were shipped Sunday night and will begin to be delivered to states for injections starting on Tuesday.

The White House said the entire stockpile of the newly approved single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine will go out immediately. J&J will deliver about 16 million more doses by the end of March and 100 million total by the end of June, but the distribution would be backloaded.

The White House is encouraging Americans to take the first dose available to them, regardless of manufacturer.

DeSantis issued an executive order late Friday afternoon that allows physicians to vaccinate people who are deemed “extremely vulnerable” to the disease. The executive order also will allow advanced practice registered nurses and pharmacists to provide shots to such people if physicians determine that the recipients are extremely vulnerable.

Retail pharmacies are scrambling to keep up with the changes.

Publix says it’s already allowing for newly eligible people to sign up for a vaccine appointment. Walmart said it is in the process of updating its internal processes and the scheduling system to reflect new eligibility.

About the Authors:

Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.

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