Florida expands eligibility for COVID vaccine

New COVID-19 Vaccine Eligibility Requirements. Photo courtesy BayNews9

New, expanded eligibility rules for receiving  the COVID-19 vaccine will go into effect Monday. The new protocols will allow K-12 school employees, fire, and law enforcement officers ages 50 and older to receive the vaccine. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the new plans for the vaccine rollout and the expected arrival of more than 175,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses to be sufficient for the updated rollout. 

“This is an opportunity to get the folks whom have been performing public service from the cops, sheriff’s office, teachers, and fire. We’re focusing on these drives on the 50 and up communities. This will allow in Florida for our 2,000 law enforcement personnel ages 50 and up which will make a mass majority of people in that age group. It exciting to be able to complement the efforts that we’ve been doing on many of these other avenues,” DeSantis said during his press conference last Friday. 

During the press conference, DeSantis described the daily work conditions for people in uniform who are working high-risk professions. He said they need to be eligible for vaccine doses. Tallahassee Police Department Officer Cecil Files believes this update to vaccine requirements is a weight off his shoulders in relation to the safety of his family and home. 

“Every day I go to work and encounter people from all walks of life in close vicinity and return back home to my family with hopes that I didn’t track sickness into the house. I’m glad that I’m able to grab the vaccine now because it can be one less thing I can worry about while doing the job,” Files said. 

The new executive order also allows any individuals to be vaccinated if deemed extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 by a physician by submitting a form established by the Florida Department of Health. Vaccine appointments are already under way for FAMU aluma Demera Williams, a military veteran who plans to receive her vaccine as soon as possible. 

“I made my appointment at the VA hospital after I notified my doctor that I was interested in getting vaccinated soon. She signed me right up, and it was super easy. I’ve always been pro-vaccine, so if the option is available, why not take advantage,” Williams said. 

Plans for general public eligibility are soon underway, DeSantis said at a Wednesday news conference in Sumter County. He said that Floridians under age 50 can expect to be eligible for the vaccine “relatively soon.”