Fed order lets all school workers get vaccine

Sissi Rodriguez, a pharmacy technician with AdventHealth, draws the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at Paddock Mall in this Jan. 22 file photo. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 
Florida teachers of all ages are eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations, under a directive issued by President Joe Biden’s administration.

Since vaccines first became available in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has prioritized people ages 65 and older for the sought-after shots. DeSantis on Feb. 23, expanded the state’s vaccination program to include teachers 50 and older.

But the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a directive on Tuesday requiring all school workers, including bus drivers, to be prioritized for vaccinations. DeSantis on Thursday acknowledged that the Biden administration’s order allows all Florida teachers to sign up for shots.

“The federal government put that order in. So they’ve made the teachers, regardless of age, eligible, so they are eligible to get vaccinated, per that order. Our view is, if you’re 25, you’re just at less risk than somebody that’s 80. That’s just the bottom line,” DeSantis told reporters in Crystal River.

The shots are available at all pharmacies offering vaccinations, as well as other locations where inoculations are offered, including sites operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Duval, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade and Orange counties.

DeSantis said the state will continue prioritizing seniors for shots.

“At the same time, (the) federal government’s the one sending us the vaccine. If they want it to be for all ages, then they have the ability to go and do that. So the pharmacies are obviously going to accommodate that. These sites will accommodate that. But our number one goal right now is to get through the senior population,” he said.

DeSantis said he will gradually lower age restrictions when as many seniors who want the vaccine receive it. Florida is home to more than 4 million residents ages 65 and older. DeSantis also said the state will receive 175,000 doses of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week.

Those shots will be prioritized for law-enforcement and fire-department personnel and education workers who are ages 50 and older, the governor said. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, unlike other vaccines, requires only one shot.

“I think it’s a very effective way to go in, vaccinate a lot of people,” DeSantis said. “You do one shot, and then you don’t have to worry about it.”

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