TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Florida will continue to put seniors first when it comes to getting residents vaccinated, Gov. Ron DeSantis reiterated at a Tuesday news conference.
The governor provided another COVID-19 and vaccine update from The Villages and again touted his policy of giving vaccine priority to seniors.
“Putting seniors first was the right decision,” DeSantis said. “Seniors first is our mantra.”
According to a DOH report released Monday, more than 547,000 Floridians have received their first doses. On Tuesday, DeSantis said more than 223,000 of Florida’s 4.5 million seniors had been vaccinated, which was more than 50% of vaccinations administered in the state.
“Florida is putting seniors first. More than 50 percent of the total vaccinations administered in the state have been for individuals 65 and older, and we continue to accelerate this rate,” DeSantis said in a video message released Tuesday morning.
The move bucks CDC vaccine-priority guidelines that include “non–health care frontline essential workers” in “phase 1b” vaccinations. That would include K-12 teachers, school staff, child care workers, and “critical workers in high-risk settings—workers who are in industries essential to the functioning of society and substantially higher risk of exposure.”
The Pinellas County School Board plans to ask the governor to classify teachers as essential workers so they can receive the vaccine sooner.
But at Tuesday’s press conference, DeSantis said he has no plans to start prioritizing vaccinating younger people.
“It would have allowed a 20-year-old healthy worker to get a vaccine before a 74-year-old grandmother or grandparent. That does not recognize how this virus has affected elderly people,” DeSantis said. “We are doing 65 and up. I think you’re going to see now the federal government tell people that’s a better way to be able to do it.”
DeSantis said seniors from all over the world were calling to see if they could get vaccinated, but the state is limiting vaccines to residents.
“We’re not doing any tourists,” DeSantis said.
“You have literally people all over the world, all over the country calling to see [if they can get vaccinated],” he added. “If we weren’t getting the shots in the arms, people wouldn’t be trying to come to Florida.”
The state is however open to snowbirds with seasonal residences in Florida.
“We are discouraging people to come to Florida, just to get a vaccine,” DeSantis had told reporters last week. “I think if they called Jackson (Memorial Hospital) and said, ‘Hey, I’m in New York, I can’t get vaccinated, can I come down,’ we would say, ‘don’t do that.’ ”
“I don’t think we want to get in a situation where we’re trying to say, ‘Oh, no, you go back to Rhode Island, or you go back to Minnesota or wherever,’” he added.
DeSantis said he asked the federal government to supply more doses and booster shots for those who’ve received their first dose.
“We’re not NOT doing the booster, that’s important to know,” DeSantis said. “To get that 95% (efficacy) you’ve got to do the booster.”
Last week, the governor announced 22 Publix stores in Citrus, Hernando and Marion counties will begin administering 15,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine.
He’s scheduled to hold a press conference at a Publix in Niceville at 10:30 a.m. to give an update on the program.
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