DeSantis expands COVID-19 vaccine eligibility

A registered nurse takes out the next syringe of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to give to a person who signed up for an appointment on the first day of COVID-19 vaccinations at the Florida Department of Health Marion County in Ocala, Fla. on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021. The Florida Department of Health Marion County has taken 800 appointments for people to receive the COVID-19 vaccination in the next 28 days. This week the Department of Health will be administering vaccines on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. When people return for their second vaccination in 28 days, they will go to Paddock Mall. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.

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Posted March 1, 2021 | Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida

A registered nurse grabs a syringe of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during a Florida Department of Health in Marion County vaccination event in the January file photo. Gov. Ron DeSantis recently expanded the eligibility for the vaccine to those under 65 deemed extremely vulnerable. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]

TALLAHASSEE – While focused on vaccinating seniors since December, Gov. Ron DeSantis recently cleared the way for more people under 65 to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

DeSantis issued an executive order late Friday afternoon that allows physicians to vaccinate people “extremely vulnerable” to COVID-19. The executive order also will allow others, including pharmacists to provide shots to those under 65 if physicians deem them extremely vulnerable.

Under a Dec. 23 executive order, only hospitals were allowed to vaccinate people considered extremely vulnerable. But the focus of the order was to vaccinate people 65 or older.

DeSantis’ office did not announce the change but posted the executive order on its website.

The order kept unchanged vaccinations for seniors, long-term care facility residents and staff members and health-care workers who have direct patient contact.

Through Saturday, the state’s Department of Health reported 3,017,661 people vaccinated in Florida. More than half  – 1,680,230 – completed the two-dose series for the Pfizer or Moderna versions of the vaccine.

Marion County reported 53,089 people vaccinated, with 31,208 finished with the series, according to the DOH.

For weeks, DeSantis blanketed the state promoting vaccinations for seniors, who are more likely to die from COVID-19. Of the 30,852  deaths in Florida, 83%, or 25,761, were 65 or older. Through Saturday, the state had vaccinated 2.29 million people 65 and older.

Friday’s order does not define “extremely vulnerable.” It leaves it to physicians.

The order follows a Feb. 23 move by DeSantis to open vaccinations to teachers and law enforcement officers 50 and older.

While the governor’s action does not include all school employees, it would cover some area teachers.

While new COVID-19 cases in Florida are down, the state reported 1.9 million cases since the pandemic broke.

DeSantis on Friday also issued an executive order extending for 60 days a state of emergency. The original order came on March 9, as COVID-19 began hitting the state.

The Ocala Gazette contributed to this report.

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