PENSACOLA, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday signed an executive order that allows people 65 and older the first priority for COVID-19 vaccines over other members of the general public.
That process of vaccinating senior citizens could begin as early as Monday, DeSantis said.
DeSantis’ order goes against initial recommendations from a federal advisory panel that suggested essential workers be vaccinated along with people 75 and over.
The governor said his focus remains on the vulnerable elderly population. More than 4 million in Florida are over the age of 65, far larger than the hundreds of thousands of doses currently available. DeSantis noted that the state doesn’t yet have ample doses for all senior citizens to be vaccinated, so people shouldn’t rush to their local healthcare providers yet.
“Don’t rush to your local hospital or county health department right now. You are going to have an opportunity to sign up, I think, in very short order. Bear with us,” DeSantis said.
The executive order says:
“During this first phase of vaccine administration, all providers administering any COVID-19 vaccine shall only vaccinate the following populations: Long-term care facility residents and staff; Persons 65 years of age and older; and Health care personnel with direct patient contact.”
An exception is made for hospitals to vaccinate others they deem to be “extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.”
Further details about how the vaccines will be administered to seniors will be forthcoming, the governor said.
“The problem is, people that are 73, 74 would be in the back of the line for a young 21-year-old worker who is consider ‘essential.’ That doesn’t make sense,” DeSantis said, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention phased allocation recommendations.
Local 10 reached out to Broward County who said that the Florida Department of Health will be the lead in the dissemination of the vaccine to seniors in the county, not the Broward Health Department.
Broward County Mayor Steve Geller said the county would provide support, such as allowing the state to use county parks for drive-through vaccinations or using Broward ambulance services to get the vaccines to homebound individuals. There is no word yet on Miami-Dade’s plan on getting the vaccine to this population.
DeSantis made his announcement during a news conference at Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola as the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines continued for frontline medical workers and people at long-term care facilities. In South Florida, priority groups continued to get vaccinated. At Broward Health Imperial Point, healthcare workers received the Moderna COVID vaccine. Pfizer doses were administered to patients and staff at Memorial Manor, one of the skilled nursing facilities in Broward County that is part of the state’s pilot program to speed up distribution to long-term care facilities.
“If there is one dose here in Pensacola this week, I want to make sure it goes to an elderly. I don’t want it go to me,” he said.
Florida was the first state to begin vaccinating long-term care residents last week after medical workers started getting the shots Dec. 14.
The state’s emergency management division said that, to date, statewide they have vaccinated 70,000 people. They have coordinated statewide distribution of more than 500,000 doses to date. Keep in mind, however, that Florida’s total population is 21 million.
The Florida Division of Emergency Management as actively prepared for a COVID-19 vaccine since July, officials said. The division has purchased 5 million syringes, 5 million bandages, and 5 million alcohol swabs.
Watch a replay of Wednesday’s news conference below: