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With Eye On Lowering Age, Florida Expands Vaccine Program In Minority Areas

The governor expects the vaccine age to come down as soon as the demand softens among ages 65 and older. Meantime, six vaccine sites are opening in underserved communities across the state.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday he expects that next month the state will be able to lower the age for the general population to receive the coronavirus vaccine from the current 65.

Speaking in Jacksonville, DeSantis also announced Florida is opening six vaccination sites in underserved minority communities around the state.

DeSantis could not detail how much lower the age priority will be, but he expects the vaccine to be widely available in the state by April. That should come as the demand softens among ages 65 and older.

“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,” he said. “As soon as we have the metrics to justify it, we’re going to let people know.”

The state currently prioritizes giving the vaccine to ages 65 and older and frontline health workers.

Florida is expected to receive “tens of thousands” of doses of the new vaccine as early as next week, DeSantis said, and the state would distribute those “in the way that makes the most sense.”

Earlier this week in Brooksville, he said Pfizer had been sending about 100,000 doses a week to the state and will increase that to about 200,000 by next week.

He said Florida also could soon get doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine that the Food and Drug Administration said has met the requirements for emergency use authorization. Those doses could come as soon as next week.

With the boost in supply, DeSantis said earlier this week that police officers, firefighters and teachers 50 and older will be soon eligible.

“And then once we get to the point of the senior population where we start to see the demand go down,” DeSantis said, “then we obviously are going to lower the age and get people at the minimum 60 [years old], and maybe even 55, right off the bat.”

The new vaccination sites will be in Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Kissimmee and in Broward and Miami-Dade counties. He said the sites will be modeled after one recently opened in Palm Beach County in the isolated, predominately Black area around Belle Glade.

“The goal here is to be able to reach anyone who may fall through the cracks, who doesn’t necessarily have access to a retail pharmacy or a hospital,” DeSantis said at one of the sites, Edward Walters College, a historically Black college in Jacksonville. “And so I want to thank Edward Waters for stepping up and being willing to get involved here.”

DeSantis celebrated Florida’s progress with vaccinating people over the age of 65, saying that several counties in Northeast Florida were well ahead of the state’s average. In Duval County, 55% of seniors have gotten at least one shot of the vaccine; in St. Johns County, it is closer to 75%.

“Hope is alive, and hope is alive because of a plan and a strategy,” Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said at Thursday’s gathering. “Thank God we live in Florida. Our schools are open. Businesses are open in a safe and responsible way, and we are at a tipping point, I believe in the near future, of turning a corner and getting back to normalcy.”

WJCT reporter Sydney Boles and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 Health News Florida

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