TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis early Thursday announced broad expansions of statewide eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations — for people age 40 and over beginning Monday and for people age 18 and over beginning Monday, April 5.
What You Need To Know
- DeSantis announces broad expansion of COVID-19 vaccine eligibility
- Floridians ages 40 and older will be eligible Monday, 18-up a week later
- Vaccines available at several federal sites, plus retail pharmacies
- Seminole County official expresses excitement, but concern over supply
The announcement marks a continued acceleration of vaccinations that began this month when the governor opened vaccinations to Florida residents age 60 and over, then to age 50 and over. That came as the demand from people age 65 and over began to subside.
Florida follows Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, and Indiana, as the latest states to open vaccinations to all adults, and the governor's announcement follows a pledge early this month from President Joe Biden to make every American adult eligible for a vaccine by May 1.
DeSantis on Thursday noted progress on efforts to vaccinate seniors, plus residents age 60-64 and 50 and over.
“And we’re ready to take this step,” he said.
The state encourages people to preregister for vaccinations at myvaccine.fl.gov. Vaccinations are offered at federally supported sites in Tampa and Orlando, plus at various locations in Tampa Bay and Central Florida.
Vaccines are also available at 730 Publix pharmacies throughout Florida, plus at 150 CVS locations, 125 Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club locations, and more than 70 Winn Dixie locations. Walgreens is also expanding its vaccination services in the state.
The governor's announcement follows a move by Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings to offer vaccinations to county residents age 40 and over beginning this week.
DeSantis objected last week to the move, saying it wasn’t Demings’s decision to make. Demings said he made the decision in the “best interest of my county.”
"We are pleased to hear that the governor moved in the direction that we suggested just a week ago," Demings said Thursday during an Orange County coronavirus news briefing. "We can all agree this is some good news for the Sunshine State that we have expanded opportunities."
Demings said 63.4% of county residents age 60 and over has received at least one vaccine dose. And Dr. Raul Pino, director of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, said the county has seen “significant reductions” in the numbers of hospitalizations and deaths.
Yet Pino said infections have been increasing among county residents age 18 to 25, and he urged people age 18 and over to get vaccinated as soon as they could beginning April 5.
“The infection continues to be active,” Pino said. “Also, this could be early signals of spring break transmissions. We don’t know yet … but it probably will go up even a little bit higher in the younger segment of the population.”
In Pinellas County, the Florida Department of Health office there told Spectrum News that it follows the governor's executive orders and that it would "continue to adjust operations to meet the demand."
In Seminole County, an official expressed excitement Thursday over the governor’s announcement. “There’s massive interest across the community,” Steven Lerner, senior planner at the county’s Office of Emergency Management, told Spectrum News. “We saw a huge influx when we went to the 50-year age group, and we anticipate to see that again as we move to 40-year-old age group and into the 18 and older.”
"We’re seeing a huge demand from almost every age group equally, to those who haven’t had the ability to receive the evaccine yet," he added.
Lerner said the county had been told before the governor's announcement that next week it would receive 6,000 to 7,000 vaccine doses, well below its capacity to vaccinate up to about 12,000 people a week. “The 7,000 doses is just not going to cut it, so we are really … hoping for some more vaccine,” Lerner said.
Officials at the Florida Division of Emergency Management said they expected the state to receive more than 680,000 first vaccine doses over the next week to distribute throughout the state. That includes more than 122,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only one dose; more than 350,000 doses of Pfizer; and about 208,000 doses of Moderna. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines each require two doses.
Just last week, DeSantis said it could be weeks before Florida received more Johnson & Johnson supply.
In Hillsborough County, Marc Clark and Pam Jansky have been dating for four years, and they now have decisions on their hands. The couple, in their twenties, moved to Tampa from Chicago last summer, right in the thick of the pandemic.
They feel they’ve been missing out on a lot of what the city has to offer, plus family barbecues and social gatherings.
“I would love to get back to doing that,” Marc said. “So I wouldn’t mind taking the vaccine.”
Pam says she could be persuaded to get the shot, especially if it means landing a nanny job that she has been pursuing.
“A lot of families do require the COVID vaccination,” she said, “so if it comes out to that. I’ll most likely get it.”
Reporter Alese Underwood contributed to this report.