DeSantis preparing to expand COVID-19 vaccine availability below age 65 threshold

DeSantis plans to make the change sometime in March

DeSantis expects to receive single-dose COVID-19 vaccine from J&J
DeSantis expects to receive single-dose COVID-19 vaccine from J&J

Gov. Ron DeSantis says he’s preparing to lower the age at which Floridians can get a COVID-19 vaccination to somewhere below the current 65-year-old threshold, News 6 partner Florida Today reports.

Currently, only people 65 and older, front-line health care workers, and residents and staff of long-term-care facilities are eligible for the vaccines being distributed through the state.

During news conferences Thursday in Jacksonville and St. Lucie County, DeSantis signaled that he plans to lower the age requirement to 60 — or possibly 55 — if he is comfortable that vaccine supplies are increasing sufficiently.

The imminent addition of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to the mix, plus increased production of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, should help, DeSantis said.

DeSantis citied state data indicating that 47% of the roughly 4.5 million Floridians ages 65 and up already have received at least one of the two recommended doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines. Because data reporting sometimes lags several days behind the vaccinations, he said that figure now probably has exceeded 50%.

The governor said expanding the state’s vaccine eligibility guidelines is a balancing act. He doesn’t want to expand it too much and “crush the system” for the remining people 65 and up who want to get a vaccine, but thus far have not been able to schedule an appointment because demand still exceeds supply of the vaccine.

“I don’t want to end up drowning them out,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis said he plans to provide more details next week on expanding the eligible age groups, as well as on ways to add more teachers and law enforcement personnel to the eligible classifications.

According to the Florida Department of Health, there have been 79,833 people vaccinated in Brevard County so far. That includes 42,311 who have received just the first dose, and 37,522 who have received both doses of the two-dose series. The doses are recommended to be given 21 or 28 days apart, depending on the vaccine manufacturer.

The Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine will require just one dose.

Brevard County Emergency Management Director John Scott said there currently are about 47,000 people from Brevard on a state waiting list for a vaccine appointment.

People who want to register online for appointments for vaccines from a Department of Health site off Judge Fran Jamieson Way in Viera site should go to myvaccine.fl.gov.

As part of the statewide registration system, each county has a designated phone number that individuals can call and preregister if they do not have internet access. In Brevard County, the number is 866-201-5420 (or 833-476-1525 for TTY users, such as people with hearing or speech difficulties).

The statewide preregistration system also provides each county with a designated help line number. This help line will connect individuals directly with an operator to answer questions on the preregistration system. Brevard County’s help line number is 833-540-2041.