School personnel in Florida, regardless of age, are now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines at sites participating in a federal pharmacy program, despite stricter limits set by the governor.
The Biden administration issued a new directive on March 2, aiming for states to vaccinate teachers, school staff and childcare workers with initial doses by the end of March. Florida educators of any age can now receive doses at federal distribution sites like FEMA locations and Walmart, CVS and Publix pharmacies.
“My order was 50 and up for teachers and any school personnel, any fire, any police,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a briefing Thursday, elaborating on eligibility guidelines. “What the federal government has done, has said anybody that works in the school system regardless of age.”
On a national level, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that “teachers and staff in pre-K-12 schools and childcare programs will be able to sign up for an appointment at over 9,000 pharmacy locations participating in the program nationwide.”
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“The federal government’s the one sending us the vaccine, if they want it to be for all ages, then they have the ability to go and do that, and so the pharmacies are obviously going to accommodate that, these sites will accommodate that,” the governor said at a separate briefing Thursday.
DeSantis said Florida’s state-run and county-run sites will continue prioritizing seniors given the higher COVID-19-related mortality among older populations.
“I’m not opposed to someone 20, 22 getting a vaccine but if we want to save lives we need to get all the seniors,” he added. Once Florida administers doses to a “critical mass of seniors,” or at least 65% of seniors, the governor said he would expand eligibility to include younger age groups.
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DeSantis noted that over 54% of the state’s seniors had already received at least one dose.
CVS issued a statement on the new eligibility, writing: “We’ve aligned with updated Federal Retail Pharmacy Program guidelines by making appointments available to pre-K through 12 educators and staff and childcare workers in all 17 states where we currently offer COVID-19 vaccines.”