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FL residents 18 and up will be eligible to get Covid-19 vaccine by April 5; 16 and 17 year olds OK'd for only Pfizer doses

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Dibya Sarkar

Managing Editor

Friday, March 26, 2021


Beginning Monday, all Florida residents age 40 and older will be eligible to receive a Covid-19 vaccine. The following Monday, April 5, it will then be  offered to everyone 18 and up, according to new guidelines announced by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

A spokesperson in his office later clarified that the state also will allow 16 and 17 year olds to be vaccinated April 5 but only with the Pfizer vaccine, which has been approved for individuals of those ages, according to the Tampa Bay Times and other news outlets. The Moderna and single-dose Johnson &  Johnson vaccines have not been approved for those under 18. The Orlando Sentinel (subscription required) said teens will need their parents to sign a form authorizing them to get a shot or be accompanied by a parent to the site providing the shot. 

The state’s eligibility change follows Orange County’s move (read related VoxPopuli story) to lower the age to 40 earlier this week. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava had also announced last week that her county would begin vaccinating residents age 40 and up beginning March 29.

Currently, only people age 50 and older are eligible to get a shot. “We have now vaccinated over 70 percent of the roughly 4.4 million seniors living in the state,” said DeSantis in a video message in announcing the changes. Two weeks ago, President Joe Biden said every American adult should be eligible for a vaccine no later than May 1.

Through Thursday, nearly 5.4 million have either received either the first dose of Moderna or Pfizer’s two-dose vaccine series or have completed the series or gotten the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot, according to Florida Department of Health data. The Johns Hopkins’ Coronavirus Resource Center shows almost identical numbers, adding 13.71 percent of the state’s population has been fully vaccinated.

DeSantis said currently 730 Publix pharmacies, more than 150 CVS sites, 125 Sam’s Club and Walmart locations, more than 70 Winn-Dixie sites and about 200 Walgreens facilities across the state offer vaccines. Walgreens will soon expand to more than 600 locations statewide. The Federal Emergency Management Agency also has at least four sites offering vaccines, including at Valencia Community College. Elsewhere in Orange County, the county government has a drive through vaccination facility at the Orange County Convention Center.

The Salvation Army Orlando will offer vaccines Saturday at a pop-up site located at its men’s shelter, 624 Lexington Ave., Orlando 32801, from 8 a.m.-7 p.m. No appointment is necessary but only people age 50 and above are eligible.

DeSantis said the state has vaccinated more than 5,000 homebound seniors, held 71 faith-based events in 22 counties, resulting in more than 73,000 vaccinations as well as events at 31 senior communities, resulting in more than 140,000 vaccinations.

But DeSantis has been hounded by accusations of a “pay to play” scheme in which he allegedly directed vaccine distribution to some of the state’s most wealthiest zip codes in exchange for campaign donations. Earlier this month, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only statewide elected Democrat, called for a congressional inquiry and an FBI investigation into the matter. In a separate statement, Senate Democratic Leader Gary Farmer called on the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the issue. DeSantis has denied any such scheme.

As of Friday morning, Florida has recorded a total of 2,027,429 positive cases, including 1,989,922 Florida residents and 37,507 non-residents, according to the Covid-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard provided by the Florida Department of Health. It said there have been 84,203 hospitalizations. Florida resident deaths total 32,957.

Note: The story and headline were updated March 26, 2021 at about 2:15 p.m. with information about the state allowing some teens below 18 to get vaccinated with the Pfizer doses.

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