Gov. Ron DeSantis held a press conference at the Navarro Discount Pharmacy in Hialeah on Tuesday.
DeSantis said he wants federally-supported sites to be open for vaccinations to sworn law enforcement officers, and classroom teachers who are age 50 and over.
Vaccination sites in Southwest Florida such as the old airport location in Bonita Springs will remain exclusive to seniors 65 and older and health care workers at this time.
Our teachers and our first responders will have to go to Miami, Tampa, Orlando or Jacksonville to get the vaccine.
It’s a pair of shots these community members believe will help them do their jobs much better.
Every time someone gets a shot in the arm, there’s someone else out there somewhere who wants I too.
“There’s a certain amount of discomfort that goes with that, maybe even guilt because they deserve to be vaccinated,” said Sue Pattie, a school counselor in Lee County.
Pattie is 65 years old, and she has received both her first and second doses, but she can’t ignore all the teachers who haven’t.
“The level of stress, anxiety and fear is still there, not only for themselves but their immediate family,” Pattie said.
Pattie’s prayers could soon be answered with the governor’s announcement.
It also comes as a relief to Kevin Daly, the president of Teachers Association-Lee County.
“To keep that up, to keep everybody safe and to keep the momentum going and the learning happening, we really need to look at getting access to the vaccine,” Daly said.
In Lee County, at least 287 teachers and school staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 since September 2020.
Over at the Fort Myers Police Department, there have been 60 positives for personnel and 130 exposures.
“Officer are definitely more exposed than the average person, so having that vaccine availability to the officer may give them more peace of mind,” said FMPD Lt. Jason Pate.
Concerns of seniors
Not everyone is excited more people can get the coronavirus vaccine in Florida at this point in in time. Emails we received from viewers show a level of frustration Floridians 65 and older are facing during the continued vaccine rollout in the state.
With an expanding pool, the 2 million seniors still hoping to get that shot soon is going down faster.
“It keeps you into continual lockdown mode of not going out, not socializing degree at all, so we virtually stay locked down,” said Glenn Smith on Marco Island.
Smith has signed up, woken up and is now fed up with waiting. He’s tried to get appointments for his wife and a friend, who are both over 65.
“I’m sitting here thinking, ‘Here’s a guy who’s 93. He’s clearly probably more vulnerable than a lot of people, but they’re not getting to him,’” Smith said.
Smith worries seniors in Florida who find time precious might now wait longer than they already have to be vaccinated.
“If you now expand the eligible group again, all you’re doing is diluting the chances of people that have been trying for over a month to get their vaccine,” Smith said.
Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to get shots into classroom teachers, firefighters and police officers who are ages 50 years and older.
“We have these extra doses, of course, we’re going to continue to make those sites available to seniors, but the federally supported sites, as long as it works out to where doses will be allowed for this,” DeSantis said during the press conference.
To start, the expanded criteria will only be available at the state’s four federal vaccine sites. The governor argues these will be federal doses only, none from the state’s supply.
“They’re going to put in additional doses above and beyond the State’s allotment, and these are tens of thousands of doses in a given week,” DeSantis said.
But those are doses that would go to seniors otherwise, seniors including Smith’s wife.
“I would say, just by our age, we’re vulnerable,” Smith said. “That’s the most important thing. You don’t want to die.”
More vaccine expansion
The governor also announced the expansion of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout to dozens of pharmacies in South Florida, plus 15 traditional CVS pharmacies, including one in Collier County and one in Hendry County. CVS will begin vaccinating those 65+ later this week with signups beginning Wednesday, Feb. 24.
Each store can administer up to 100 doses per day.
Vaccinations will also begin at CVS Pharmacy y más, and Navarro Discount Pharmacy locations in Miami-Dade County.
The federal sites are located in Duvall, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, and Orange counties.
Appointments for vaccinations at the select CVS Health locations will become available for booking later this week as stores receive shipments of vaccine. Patients must register in advance at CVS.com or through the CVS Pharmacy app, and people without online access can contact CVS customer service: (800) 746-7287. Walk-in vaccinations without an appointment will not be provided.
Watch the full press conference below or click here.