TALLAHASSEE, FLa. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Monday that the state will lower the age for people to get a COVID-19 vaccine from 65 to 60 next week.
“That will apply across the board at all of the state pods, all of the pharmacies, all of the different drive-thru sites that are being operated,” DeSantis said. “If you’re 60 plus, you will be able to get sign up and be able to get the vaccine.”
The age change is effective March 15.
The governor had hinted that this would come at some point in March and said the age requirement will continue to drop as the number of vaccinations and supplies continues to increase, with each five-year age group adding about 2 million people in Florida to those eligible to get a shot.
The change comes as the demand from seniors is decreasing and the federal vaccination sites throughout the state continue to see a low turnout of eligible people.
“I do think that this is the right time to do it. We’re starting to see the demand soften,” DeSantis said.
The new federally-run site in Jacksonville and the two satellite sites have had the ability to vaccinate more than 15,000 people since they opened Wednesday -- the same day school personnel, firefighters and law enforcement officers age 50 and older, as well as people deemed “medically vulnerable,” were able to start getting shots at the federal sites in Florida. But from the first day to Sunday, the federal site at Gateway Mall and the two satellite sites have only administered nearly 6,000 doses, averaging under 1,200 per day out of the 3,000 doses per day allocated.
DeSantis also said the increased supply also makes appointments to get a vaccine at grocery stores and pharmacies easier to obtain.
“Hopefully by next week we’ll get another shipment of the Johnson & Johnson, and I anticipate what we just got will be gone, probably within the next few days,” DeSantis said. “It seems to be pretty popular.”
With the rough outline of how the vaccine rollout will happen going forward, DeSantis has again chosen to break with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC recommends that frontline essential workers like grocery store workers, manufacturing workers and public transit workers should be among the first groups to receive the vaccine in Phase 1b. In Phase 1c, the CDC says, people ages 65 to 74, as well as other essential workers like those in the food service industry and others who interact with large numbers of people, should be vaccinated in order to limit community spread.
Health officials say people like grocery store workers should be vaccinated because they come in contact with seniors and other vulnerable people every day.
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried said the state is seeing “chaos, confusion, frustration” and a “lack of clarity” during the vaccine rollout.
Fried said during a Monday news conference that the state’s age-based rollout is not the best path forward.
“When you first had it lowered to 70 had 75 and above, you’re capturing too many people with not enough vaccines,” Fried said. “I think that taking the approach of just age really is taking out of the conversation all the different people that are out and about who have to be out working in order to get our economy up and running and to get our kids in schools and to get ourselves fed.”
Fried called for DeSantis to expand the paperwork that is necessary for when somebody is trying to prove they are medically vulnerable to receive a vaccine.
“People got medical bills, they’ve got other prescription medications that they should be able to come to a site show that they are medically vulnerable, not make them go to a doctor who potentially they don’t have, or get a form that may cost them additional dollars to get these vaccines,” Fried said.