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Florida vaccination age lowering to 50, DeSantis says

The Republican governor cited “relatively modest” demand for the vaccine.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives his State of the State speech in the House of Representatives chamber on the first day of the 2021 Legislative Session in Tallahassee, Fla. Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (Tori Lynn Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat via AP)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives his State of the State speech in the House of Representatives chamber on the first day of the 2021 Legislative Session in Tallahassee, Fla. Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (Tori Lynn Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat via AP) [ TORI LYNN SCHNEIDER/TALLAHASSEE DEMOCRAT ]
Published Mar. 19
Updated Mar. 19

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Friday that he will lower the coronavirus vaccine eligibility age to 50 starting Monday.

The Republican governor, speaking at a news conference in Tallahassee, said Florida has seen “relatively modest” demand for the vaccine in recent days. He reiterated that vaccinations would likely be expanded to all Floridians 16 and older before May 1.

With this announcement, Florida is making shots available to those who are:

  • Long-term care facility residents and staff
  • People aged 50 and older
  • Frontline health care workers
  • People who are “extremely vulnerable” to the virus who have a state form signed by a physician
Related: A guide to finding a coronavirus vaccine in Tampa Bay and Florida

Certain vaccine providers in the state, such as those supported by the federal government, are offering further expanded eligibility, such as providing doses to all pre-K through 12th-grade school and child care workers, regardless of age.

DeSantis’ latest order will expand vaccination access significantly. According to a 2019 estimate by the state’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research, some 2.8 million Floridians are between the ages of 50 and 59. However, some in that group may have already gotten doses because they fell into other eligibility categories.

DeSantis on Friday touted the state’s vaccine program and its focus on reaching seniors, saying about 75 percent of seniors are opting to get the shots in counties with the highest demand for the vaccine.

DeSantis said he expects to see lower demand for shots from younger age groups, although he did not say why.

“There’s definitely a segment who are opting not to get it,” DeSantis said.

Public health experts have lauded the coronavirus vaccines as medical marvels that prevent severe sickness and death from the virus.

Citing lower demand at some vaccination sites, officials in Orange County and Miami-Dade this week announced expanded vaccine eligibility that go further than what the state has authorized.

Orange County’s mayor, Jerry Demings, said his county-run sites will open vaccinations to residents 40 and older starting Monday. And Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said she will offer shots to adults 40 and older starting Monday.

Responding to Demings’ announcement at the news conference, DeSantis said it would be a mistake to vaccinate less vulnerable Floridians ahead of seniors.

“It’s not his decision to make,” DeSantis said. “Trying to do healthy 40-year-olds over finding maybe some more seniors, to me, would not be the direction that I would go.”

Some federal vaccination sites in the state have already experimented with offering the vaccine to broader swaths of the population. Earlier this month, there was widespread confusion at a federal vaccination site in South Florida after officials gave shots to all adult residents one day, then reverted back to the more restrictive state rules the next day.

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