DeSantis moving to expand vaccinations for 50-and-older teachers and sworn law enforcement

Teacher in her classroom
Teacher in her classroom. Photo by Dave Einsel/Getty Images

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday said he wants to allow teachers and sworn law enforcement officers to be vaccinated soon as part of federally-supported COVID vaccination sites in major urban areas.

“We’ll start probably 50 and up for the police and classroom teachers,” DeSantis at a news conference in Miami-Dade County.

DeSantis also mentioned “fire” — presumably firefighters — among teachers and law enforcement age 50 and older who could soon get the vaccine, but further details are unclear.

The effort comes as DeSantis pursues an expansion beyond the 65 and older group that has been a top priority for seniors. (Some educators are 65 and older and can already get the shots.)

DeSantis shared plans at a Tuesday news conference in Miami-Dade County, where he announced that some CVS pharmacies will provide COVID vaccines.

Word also went out by tweet: “I’m pleased to announce that @CVSHealth will begin offering COVID-19 vaccinations at over 80 select pharmacy locations in 13 counties in FL, including every single @NavarroRx and @cvspharmacy y más location in Miami-Dade County.”

At the news conference, DeSantis said vaccines for age 50-and-older law enforcement officers and classrooms teachers will start with four “federally supported” vaccine sites, so long as there are not big disruptions in supply.

He did not give a clear timeframe on when that program will launch.

Many teachers have been begging to get the shots while teaching through the ongoing COVID pandemic. The statewide Florida Education Association has been advocating for vaccines for teachers for some time now.

Andrew Spar, president of the FEA, says that the statewide teacher union would prefer that DeSantis include all educators in the future vaccination prioritization, not just the 50-and-older classroom teachers.

“Glad that he’s mentioned teachers now, after he’s been saying that he’s not going to prioritize them,” Andrew Spar, president of the FEA, told the Phoenix. “But clearly this doesn’t feel like as big a push as we would like to see the governor do at this point.”

At least 30 states as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico have allowed some or all teachers to get vaccinated, according to Education Week, but not Florida.

The federally-supported program for vaccinations that would involve teachers and law enforcement would be on sites in four large population counties: Duval, Hillsborough, Orange and Miami-Dade.

The Biden administration recently sought to increase doses going to states, as well as set up mass-vaccination centers across the country.

Five new sites will be opening within the next two weeks — one in Pennsylvania, at the Philadelphia Convention Center, and four across Florida, in Orlando, Miami, Jacksonville and Tampa.

Those appear to be the sites mentioned by DeSantis on Tuesday.

Spar, of the FEA, worries that allowing 50-and-older teacher vaccinations at just four federal vaccination sites across the state could leave teachers in rural areas on the sidelines.

“These are four sites in four metropolitan areas — that does not cover the entire state,” Spar said. “A lot of our educators in some of our rural communities, who are not close to these metropolitan areas, are not included in what the governor laid out.”