Florida close to opening vaccinations to all, DeSantis says

The state will lower the eligibility age to 55 “relatively soon,” the governor said. After that, shots should be available to everyone.
Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference in Sumter County Wednesday, sharing that soon, all Floridians should have access to coronavirus vaccines.
Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference in Sumter County Wednesday, sharing that soon, all Floridians should have access to coronavirus vaccines. [ The Florida Channel ]
Published March 10, 2021|Updated March 10, 2021

Florida will open coronavirus vaccinations to people as young as 55 “relatively soon,” then make shots available to everyone, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday during an appearance in Sumter County.

The state’s age-based eligibility for vaccination is 65 and up, and it will move to 60 and up starting Monday, DeSantis said.

“We’ll lower the age to 55 in due time,” he added. “It’s all dependent on how we’re doing with getting the 60 to 64. But that will happen relatively soon.”

After that, the state “probably could just open it up to the general public at that point,” DeSantis said, pointing out that Florida’s supply of doses from the federal government is growing, as is the Federal Pharmacy Program. The state had been receiving about 250,000 doses a week, and now it is receiving 400,000 or more per week, he said.

Meanwhile, demand among seniors, who DeSantis firmly prioritized for shots, is softening in many of the state’s 67 counties, he said. The state is trying to “surge resources” to those lagging behind.

Each time Florida lowers the age by five years, about 2 million more people become eligible for shots, the governor said. As of Wednesday, nearly 3.8 million people had been vaccinated in Florida, state data shows. More than 2.7 million, or about 72 percent, were 65 or older.

DeSantis faced more questions from reporters in Sumter about vaccination sites that have popped up in wealthy senior communities across the state at his direction. He responded, saying that doses have been sent to underserved communities, too.

“We were the first state in the country to partner with African American churches,” he said. “If you look at the numbers, we’ve had tremendous success bringing it to all facets of the state.”

The governor also defended his overall pandemic strategy, which has erred on the side of keeping things open rather than closing them. He said that the move to pause elective surgeries last summer to make room for coronavirus patients was “a huge mistake ... based on faulty models.” The closings of businesses and schools were also bad moves, he said.

“Once we figured out that some of these things were not really the way to go, we made very quick course corrections,” DeSantis said. “Having the state open was obviously the right decision and we’re much better off as a result of it.”

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