ORLANDO, Fla. – School employees and law enforcement officers over 50 years old will soon be able to get the coronavirus vaccine in Florida, according to Gov. Ron DeSantis, when federally run Florida inoculation sites begin operation in March.
During a news conference Tuesday, DeSantis said plans are in the works to include the new age group of 50 and older at federal vaccination sites slated to open next week.
Among the sites funded by FEMA will include a location at the west campus of Valencia College in Orlando. The other three Florida FEMA sites will be in Jacksonville, Miami and Tampa.
“We want that to be open not just to seniors, but to sworn law enforcement and classroom teachers,” he said. “I think we’re going to have the ability to do that between these federally supported sites and some of the new vaccine that may be coming online, very, very soon.”
Currently educators and school employees 65 and older can get vaccinated and some school districts are providing them the time off and resources to make that happen.
News 6 contacted local law enforcement agencies and school districts across Central Florida to learn if they are preparing to help employees get vaccinated when the time comes.
Brevard Public Schools has a notification system in place to make staff aware of opportunities for vaccines. Once BPS receives confirmed information of the process, including specific requirements, time, location and how to go about scheduling, the district will move forward with notification.
“We are pleased that there seems to be progress in the phasing of vaccines for essential personnel to include teachers and other support staff in these integral roles,” a BPS spokesperson said.
“Flagler Schools applauds the use of federal vaccine sites to serve our teachers and staff,” a district spokesperson said. “Flagler Schools will continue to advocate the use of all available avenues to provide the COVID-19 vaccine to our teachers and staff who would want to take it.”
A Marion County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said the agency has been assisting locally with the administration of the vaccines since they were made available.
“Our Emergency Management has been working closely with the Department of Health to ensure an efficient delivery,” MCSO said. “Any preparations for vaccinating deputies has been done already in conjunction with the Department of Health.”
The agency has not conducted a survey if its deputies would take the vaccine.
Orange County Public Schools officials said they worked directly with the Florida Department of Health beginning in January to get its 65 and older employees and school nurses vaccinated.
Currently, the district is awaiting details from the state about the next priority group.
“We are encouraged by the announcement made by Gov. DeSantis this morning,” an OCPS spokesperson said via email. “The sooner that our teachers and staff, especially those that have direct contact with students, can receive their vaccinations the better. We are awaiting more information and plans from the state to move forward.”
Orange County Sheriff’s Office officials said they are still waiting for vaccines to become available to law enforcement in Florida.
The agency conducted a survey in December 2020 of its employees asking if they would get the vaccine. Out of 1,600 employees, 1,074 said they would take the vaccine, according to the sheriff’s office.
“That includes sworn and civilian staff. Also, the survey was given in December, before the vaccine had rolled out. We truly believe those numbers would be much higher if the survey were taken today,” OCSO said.
“We are grateful that law enforcement officers will be able to avail themselves of the limited number of vaccinations that will be offered at the FEMA site at Valencia College,” a spokesperson said. “Orange County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to more than 1 million calls for service or self-initiated calls in 2020 and they have an extraordinary amount of contact with people. We respond to areas and places that are not controlled environments, where people are not wearing masks, which puts our deputies at even great risk, so the ability to be vaccinated is welcomed.”
“Just as we opened a site for our 65 and over employees, we will ask permission to do the same at multiple sites when we receive word that teachers can be vaccinated,” Seminole County Schools Superintendent Walt Griffin said. “We continue to believe that our employees are frontline workers and need to have the opportunity to be vaccinated. Just as we did for our 65 and over employees, appointments will be scheduled for both vaccinations. Appointments will dictate our need not a survey.”
A school district spokesperson said many teachers “will be very pleased” to hear the news and will take advantage of getting the shots when eligible.
“It is wonderful to hear that classroom teachers will be able to get the vaccine,” a Sumter County School District spokesperson said.
The district continues to work with the local health department on the implementation of a vaccine plan when the time comes.
“Volusia County Schools supports efforts to get classroom teachers of all ages, who want the vaccine, to be vaccinated as quickly as possible,” a district spokesperson said. “We’re pleased by the news of the federal site opening in Orlando next week and would love to have a mobile unit bring the vaccinations to us, as well, if that could be arranged.”
The district said it encourages all of its employees to get vaccinated when they can.
“We previously worked with Volusia County and the Volusia County Health Department to offer vaccinations to VCS teachers who are 65 or older, and our school administrators worked with their teachers who meet this criteria, to make sure they could attend their appointments,” the district said. “We know that some of our teachers who are 65+ also were able to obtain vaccinations through county health departments, retail pharmacies, and other community vaccination sites.”
A Volusia County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said via email an initial round of vaccinations was offered for first responders in Volusia County a few weeks ago.
About 130 deputies received vaccines through AdventHealth in Daytona Beach. Another 50 or so have expressed interest in an upcoming round that has yet to be scheduled, according to the sheriff’s office.
There are 420 sworn officers with the department.
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