People aged 60 and up will be eligible for COVID vaccinations soon, Gov. DeSantis announces

Gov. Ron DeSantis announces on March 8, 2021, that he's lowering the age threshold for access to COVID vaccines. Source: Screenshot/Florida Channel

Gov. Ron DeSantis is lowering the age threshold for the COVID-19 vaccines to 60, effective next week, he announced during a news conference in Tallahassee.

“I am happy to announce today that, starting one week from today, next Monday, we will be lowering the age in the state of Florida to 60-plus for vaccinations. And that will apply across the board at all the state pods, all of the pharmacies, all of the different drive-through sites that are being operated,” the governor said.

Through other initiatives, as well, including hospitals, public health centers, and at pods in rural areas and at Black and other churches, he added. “Pods” is short for “point of distribution” for vaccines.

DeSantis had signaled last week that he might lower the age threshold from the existing 65 and up, perhaps to as low as age 55. Under an executive order, people in any age group can get vaccinated if they suffer a health condition that renders them “extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.”

Officials expect to have depleted the 175,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine it received last week but anticipate another big batch next week, DeSantis said.

“I do think this is the right time to do it. We’re starting to see the demand soften. We anticipate hundreds of thousands more seniors this week will get it,” he said.

“The pharmacies have their windows to sign up — they’re [appointments] not gone in 10 minutes like they were a month and a half ago. Sometimes the window will be open for an hour, an hour and 15 [minutes], an hour and a half,” DeSantis said.

“We think that that’s a good sign, because we think that we’re reached critical mass on the senior population.”

As of early Monday morning, nearly 3.6 million Floridians had been vaccinated. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is less efficacious than the earlier Pfizer and Moderna versions but still is highly effective at blocking hospitalizations and death, and requires a single dose compared for two each for the other vaccines.

“We want to make sure that all these appointments are filled up; we want to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to get a vaccine who may be at increased risk,” he said, and that includes people aged 60 and above.