DeSantis: Florida may likely lower COVID vaccination age eligibility ‘sometime in March’
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Gov. Ron DeSantis expects Floridians under the age of 65 to be able to receive the COVID vaccine next month, and it will start to become more widely available possibly in April.
Although the Florida governor shared this timeline, he did not, however, discuss what specific percentage of seniors would need to be vaccinated before the state decides to lower the age.
“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 vaccination 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 his second press conference in Fort Pierce, just hours later, DeSantis once again stressed that the senior population will need to be first.
“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.”
The governor adds a caveat to the expansion. The plan for expansion is contingent on the state receiving not only the Johnson & Johnson vaccine but also the state receiving more vaccines from Pfizer.
“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.”
Walmart initially had opened up appointments for people below 65 with underlying conditions, however, had to eliminate that group since the state only wants to focus on vaccinating folks that are over 65 - the state says anyone with an underlying condition should contact their primary care physician.
DeSantis warns that lowering the age too fast can be costly.
“If you expand it to 55, that’s millions and millions of people, and so then we’d end up having the jam and all that stuff again,” DeSantis said. “As soon as we have the metrics to justify it, we’re going to let people know.”
As of this week almost 50% of the state’s 4.5 million seniors have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
Earlier this week, DeSantis announced that Florida will now be able to offer the COVID-19 vaccine to law enforcement personnel, classroom teachers and firefighters, who are over 50 years-old or over at four federally operated vaccination sites starting on March 3.
DeSantis is confident that as spring approaches more and more people will be able to receive a COVID vaccine.
“As we get into April, [a vaccine] is not going to be very difficult for people to be able to get. I think the supply is going to be very robust.”
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