TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Cap News Services) – Florida won’t be following CDC recommendations for Phase II of the COVID vaccine rollout. 

Governor Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday he will be signing an executive order, making clear the state’s priority for vaccinating Floridians aged 65 and older.

The decision is being applauded by some healthcare groups. The COVID vaccine is rolling out and first on the list, per CDC guidance, are healthcare workers and longterm care residents and staff.

“Employees get tears in their eyes, the residents are emotional because finally we’re seeing some light at the end of the tunnel,” said Emmett Reed, Executive Director of the Florida Health Care Association.

Emmett Reed, Executive Director of the Florida Health Care Association says he believes Phase I could be completed very soon.

“The way that I’m seeing it, it’s a matter of weeks,” said Reed.

But for Phase II, Florida will go its own way.

CDC recommendations say essential workers and people 75 years and older should be next on the list. Instead, Governor Ron DeSantis will prioritize Floridians aged 65 and up.

“We are not going to put young healthy workers ahead of our elderly vulnerable population,” said DeSantis in a press conference Tuesday.

The move is being applauded by the Florida Hospital Association.

“They are at greatest risk of COVID-19. They are certainly those that are most at risk of becoming hospitalized,” said Mary Mathew, FHA President.

According to AARP, more than 70 percent of COVID fatalities nationwide have been people over the age of 65.

With hospitalizations more than doubling since September, Mayhew hopes targeting the elderly will ensure open beds for COVID and non-COVID patients alike.

“We know cancer, heart attacks, that hasn’t gone away and we need to make sure that there’s capacity in the system to support those needs as well,” said Mayhew.

At 4.4 million, Florida has more people aged 65 and up than any other state. Under Gov. DeSantis’ plan, one out of five Floridians will qualify for the vaccine in Phase II.