OCALA, Fla. (AP) — Sometime this month, all Floridians age 60 and up will be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines, an expansion beyond the current restriction limiting the shots to people age 65 and over, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday.
DeSantis said the shift this month in age restrictions will be made depending on the supply of vaccines coming to Florida, and it may eventually include people age 55 and older.
“It will happen in March. We will move the age down,” DeSantis said at a retirement community in Ocala where more than 3,000 shots will be given to seniors over the next several days.
Once the change is made, anybody over age 60, regardless of occupation, will be eligible, the governor said.
For the past several months, only seniors, residents and staff of long-term care facilities and health care workers have been eligible for the vaccines in Florida. This past week, eligibility opened up to all school employees, along with police officers and firefighters age 50 and over.
DeSantis also issued an order for the extremely vulnerable to have access to the shot at doctors’ offices and pharmacies beginning Wednesday. Previously the group could only get vaccinated at hospitals.
But on Friday, some lawmakers said people with doctors’ notes were turned away at a Miami vaccination site because they did not provide a Florida state form that had to be filled out by their physicians to confirm they were extremely vulnerable to the virus and eligible for the vaccine. The form was released earlier this week.
Later in the day, state lawmakers said doctors’ notes were reportedly also being accepted instead of the form.
More than half of Florida’s seniors, or about 2.5 million people age 65 and over, already have been vaccinated, but that figure is likely higher given a lag in the reporting time, DeSantis said.
“That will only grow,” DeSantis said.
The goal of the state’s vaccine strategy is to get those age 50 and over-vaccinated first since “that’s the best way to save the most lives,” DeSantis said.
The arrival of vaccines from Johnson & Johnson should aid the efforts to get shots into people’s arms since it only requires a single dose, compared with two shots needed for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, he said.
With the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, “we show up in an area, we do thousands of people and you don’t have to go back there,” DeSantis said. “We can take it and knock it out for everyone.”