Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order Wednesday making it official that the next group of people in Florida to get the COVID-19 vaccine will be the state’s more than 4 million residents over 65 years old.
Earlier in the week, DeSantis said he planned to prioritize the state’s older residents before essential workers such as firefighters, teachers and grocery store workers.
This comes after a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention panel made recommendations that the next priority vaccination group include people 75 and older, a group that includes about 20 million people, along with essential workers.
Essential workers include police; school staff; those working in food, agricultural and manufacturing sectors; corrections workers; U.S. Postal Service employees; public transit workers; and grocery store workers. They are considered at very high risk of infection because their jobs are critical and require them to be in regular contact with other people. This group includes about 30 million people.
Florida’s governor knocked the CDC panel’s recommendation saying it makes “no sense for someone that’s 42 to jump ahead of somebody that’s 70 years old.” The governor has also declined to get the vaccine himself until it’s available to Florida’s older residents.
“We’re making clear in this executive order that our first priority for the general population -- once the nurses, the doctors and the long-term care facilities are done -- is to vaccinate people 65 and older,” DeSantis said Wednesday.
According to the executive order, during Florida’s first phase of vaccinations the following groups are included: long-term care facility staff and residents, persons 65 years of age and sold and health care personnel with direct patient contact.
Under the order, hospitals will also be able to vaccinate patients who are “extremely vulnerable” to the virus.
As for when Florida’s seniors could get the first Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, the governor said it could be as soon as next week, however, he urged people not to rush out seeking the shots.
“We don’t have enough vaccine to do everyone 65 and older in Florida at this moment. We have over 4 million people in that age group,” DeSantis said. “We have vaccine doses that are in the hundreds of 1,000s, over and above eventually once we get through the long-term care and the nurses and so we’re going to continue to get vaccines every week.”
The state must first provide vaccines to all frontline healthcare workers and staff and residents at long-term care facilities.
DeSantis told Florida residents over 65 they would have the opportunity to sign up for vaccines “in very short order” but did not offer information on how they would do that.
After that, DeSantis said county health departments will begin administering the shots to individuals over 65 possibly as soon as Monday.
The next priority when more vaccine arrives would be law enforcement, firefighters and teachers, DeSantis said.
As of Wednesday morning, more than 68,000 Floridians have received their first dose of the vaccine, according to the Department of Health.