Well-Being Prevention & Cures

Florida governor defies CDC to give COVID-19 vaccine to elderly before essential workers

Story at a glance

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will next administer COVID-19 vaccine doses to elderly Floridians, after health care workers.
  • Roughly 4.4 million people in Florida are over the age of 70.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced divergent vaccine plans on Tuesday, saying that the Sunshine State’s elderly senior citizens will be the next to receive initial doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The state has already been vaccinating health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. 

But this next step breaks with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended protocol, which says in addition to those 75 and over, essential workers should receive the next doses. This includes postal workers, first responders, grocery store workers, teachers and others.

“In Florida, we’ve got to put our parents and grandparents first and that’s what we’re going to be doing,” DeSantis told reporters. “And we’re going to work like hell to be able to get all the vaccines out to elderly who want it.”


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“We are not going to put young, healthy workers ahead of our elderly vulnerable population,” he added.

A group of seniors at The Villages, a popular retirement community in Sumter County, received vaccinations during the governor’s press conference.

“These are probably the first members of the community who are senior citizens to be vaccinated, maybe anywhere in the country but certainly in Florida,” DeSantis said. “This is kind of a preview of what we’re gonna be seeing an awful lot of hopefully over the next weeks and months.”

People older than 70 are slated to be prioritized, but DeSantis didn’t offer a solid timeline along which vaccines would be rolled out. He said more concrete plans will be released soon.

CDC plans outline that after health care workers and long-term care residents, elderly people above the age of 65 and groups of front-line workers are next to receive the vaccine. Individuals with preexisting medical conditions between the ages of 16 to 64 are also included in the second tier of vaccine recipients.

Approximately 4.4 million Florida residents are older than 65, and more than 3 million are older than 70, DeSantis said. The state has received several hundred thousand doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines — which are administered with two shots per person.

“I think once we offer it to elderly — and particularly if we get a Johnson & Johnson approval which is one dose — I think you’re going to be able to offer it broadly and I think some of the key areas, whether it’s law enforcement, fire, whether it’s teachers, I think that they will have access,” DeSantis said.


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