CRYSTAL RIVER, Fla. — All school employees and child care workers in Florida, regardless of age, can receive the COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Thursday.
Speaking at a coronavirus vaccination site in Crystal River, the governor said a new mandate from the Biden Administration, which directs every state to prioritize all educators for the vaccine, will be followed in Florida.
"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," DeSantis said.
Earlier this week, DeSantis issued his own executive order which makes all K-12 school employees in Florida who are 50 and older eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
The very next day, President Joe Biden addressed America and announced his plan to allow all school and child care employees, regardless of age, to receive at least one dose of the vaccine by the end of March.
"I am directing every state to prioritize educators for vaccination," President Biden said. “We want every educator, school staff member, and child care worker to receive at least one shot by the end of this month. It’s time to treat in-person learning like the essential service that it is."
DeSantis said that while Florida will follow the federal government's mandate, his administration's main goal continues to be vaccinating as many senior citizens as possible.
"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 said. "The age-based approach we think is the most effective to reduce mortality."
Under the governor's latest executive order, anyone 65 and older, health care personnel with direct patient contact, long-term care facility residents and staff members, as well as sworn law enforcement officers, firefighters, and K-12 school employees who are 50 and older, along with anyone "determined by a physician to be extremely vulnerable to COVID-19" can receive the vaccine.
The Florida Department of Health is now requiring physicians to fill out a specific form to certify and prove that patients under 65 are "extremely vulnerable to COVID-19," and can therefore get inoculated.
Earlier this week, CVS announced its pharmacies are now offering the COVID-19 vaccine to all school employees and child care workers, regardless of age.
DeSantis said Thursday that all pharmacies and vaccination sites in Florida will accommodate the federal government's order and administer the vaccine to educators, no matter their age. It's unclear if that will happen immediately.
"The federal government is 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," DeSantis said.
The Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, which supplies additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to states, said it will "prioritize vaccinating all school staff and childcare workers during the month of March. Teachers and staff in pre-K-12 schools and childcare programs will be able to sign up for an appointment at over 9,000 pharmacy locations participating in the program nationwide."
According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health, 3,174,162 people have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in the Sunshine State.