Florida to cut coronavirus vaccine eligibility to 40, then to 18

Florida to cut coronavirus vaccine eligibility to 40, then to 18

Florida will lower the coronavirus vaccination age to 40 on Monday, then to all residents 18 and over a week later, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday, marking the biggest and final extension of eligibility in the state’s vaccine rollout for adults.

The news, announced on Twitter, brings long-awaited relief to young Florida residents – and the state as a whole as COVID-19 infections decline and the pandemic appears to be nearing its end.

“We’re ready to take that step,” DeSantis said in a video, adding that the state had vaccinated nearly three-quarters of its more than 4 million people aged 65 and over, which he defined as its first priority for vaccines.

The governor noted President Joe Biden’s May 1 deadline for states to make vaccines available to all adult residents. As of Thursday, about 5.3 million of Florida’s 22 million people had been vaccinated, according to state data.

A report: A Guide to Finding a Coronavirus Vaccine in Tampa Bay and Florida

DeSantis said Florida was also successful in vaccinating people between the ages of 50 and 64, who became eligible through two earlier expansions this month, and that has allowed the state to provide doses to more than residents.

Thursday’s announcement came suddenly and with little fanfare, following vague comments from DeSantis about when all adults would have access to the photos. In recent weeks, he has spoken of uncertain possibilities and timelines, saying only that he will lower the age of eligibility to 18 “well before May 1”.

Meanwhile, officials in some Florida counties, such as Orange and Miami-Dade, failed to meet eligibility requirements set by the governor and announced in mid-March that they would begin offering vaccines to people as young as 40 years old.

The announcement sparked excitement in Tampa Bay and across the state, with people partying online and urging others to sign up for photos when they become eligible. Chris Piedescalzo, 45, of Tampa, immediately called his wife, Jennifer Scaia, and they decided to give the Tampa Greyhound Track a try on Monday, he said.

“It gives the impression that we can get back to normal somewhat,” Piedescalzo said, adding that, like many, he and Scaia have put their lives on hold for a year, postponing vacations and visits to elderly parents who live outside. of state.

Chris Piedescalzo and Jennifer Scaia of Tampa plan to try to get vaccinated against coronavirus on Monday, when Florida lowers the eligibility age to 40, making vaccines available to them. [ Courtesy of Chris Piedescalzo ]

Above all, Piedescalzo, which produces a movie podcast, missed going to the movies. He plans to wear a mask for a while after he’s vaccinated, he said, but it will be good to watch a movie on the big screen like before. He’s also planning a trip to New York in September to see his favorite band, Irish rock band The Frames, which had to cancel their 30th anniversary tour last year.

“We went back and forth to find out if we thought we would have the vaccine by then,” he said. “And now it looks like we will.”

Jay Wolfson, professor of public health at the University of South Florida, called DeSantis’ announcement a “really important moment” in the state’s fight against coronavirus, and a big step towards getting back to normal of State.

“It is certain that by May, June and July, more of us will be able to spend time with our children, our grandchildren, our friends, our neighbors,” he said. “As you get vaccinated and your family and friends get vaccinated, you can feel very comfortable and confident spending time with them.”

Jay Wolfson, professor of public health at the University of South Florida [ University of South Florida ]

The expansion gives Wolfson confidence that the state’s distribution systems are strong and that the vaccine supply will be able to meet the demand of those who will soon become eligible, Wolfson said. But he also encouraged patience.

“That doesn’t mean the Publix or Winn Dixie or Walgreens in your neighborhood will be able to give everyone vaccines tomorrow,” Wolfson added. “Help is on the way. Hope is on the way. The vaccine is available and we have had enough. But we still have to be patient. “

Ignatius Carroll, spokesperson for the Emergency Management Division, said Tampa Greyhound Track was ready to handle the influx of newly eligible people who are expected to seek a chance in the coming days.

The site is still awaiting more details from the state on how and if operations will change, he said. But the organizers had been informed Thursday that the site would be able to distribute 1,000 first dose injections per day until April 7, without appointment.

Carroll urged the public to “be patient” when trying to get vaccinated, on the track and elsewhere. “With a change in age we’re going to have a lot of people here,” he said.

A report: Your questions about coronavirus vaccines in Florida answered

Some other states, such as Alaska, Utah, West Virginia, and Mississippi, have already opened vaccine eligibility to all residents 16 years of age and older. Texas, the second largest state in terms of population, and Oklahoma announced this week that they will open vaccines to everyone starting Monday. Georgia has said it will do so by today.

As of Thursday, it was not immediately clear why Florida is setting the eligibility age at 18 instead of 16. Several calls and emails to state officials went unanswered.

Vaccines are essential for achieving Florida’s herd immunity, which occurs when enough people become immune to a disease, either through natural infection or through vaccination, that the disease is unlikely to spread. .

It’s unclear how long immunity from either source lasts, and experts aren’t sure exactly what percentage of the Florida population needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, Mary Jo said. Trepka, infectious disease epidemiologist and professor at Florida International University.

“I think we need to shoot at least 80 percent,” she said. “Of course, the problem is, that’s a very high bar to hit.”

As of Thursday, Florida had vaccinated about 14% of its residents and ranked in the bottom 12 for the percentage of residents vaccinated, said Jen Kates, vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit focused on national health problems.

While the expansion of state eligibility is welcomed, it also presents concerns, she said. “If we open the floodgates and people are rushing in, and they can’t get a date, how can that be sent out and managed while the state waits for more supply? she asked.

Jen Kates, vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation
Jen Kates, vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation [ Courtesy of Jen Kates ]

Because Florida, unlike some other states, has based eligibility primarily on age and has not offered vaccines to other key groups, such as essential workers, there could be a demand crush. , Kates said. This could widen the equity gap for vaccines that Florida is already experiencing.

“The risk is that you can step back even further in equity if a state doesn’t go the extra mile to let people know that eligibility is open and to make sure there are vaccination sites in there.” their community, ”Kates said. “This is going to be an essential part of it. We cannot be successful in our immunization efforts if people are left behind. “

Editor Allison Ross contributed to this report.

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