DeSantis: Police, firefighters, teachers ages 50+ will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines – WSVN 7News | Miami News, Weather, Sports

MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he will be expanding COVID-19 vaccine access to more members of the community.

Last week, DeSantis mentioned expanding vaccine access to more first responders and teachers, but on Monday morning, the governor said he will be making it official.

“I’ll be signing an executive order later today to expand vaccine eligibility to all sworn law enforcement officers aged 50 and above, all firefighters aged 50 and above and all K-12 school personnel aged 50 and above,” he said during a media conference. “If you look at those numbers, the law enforcement and fire, some of them already got it because we focused on first responders, you’re talking about 20,000, 25,000 people maybe. Then with the schools, we probably could do all of that 50 up — K-12 personnel and police/fire with just our J&J shipment.”

Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho discussed how the expansion will benefit local employees.

“We’re talking about school site employees working at K-12 institutions: teachers, custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, bus aides,” he said, “those individuals who have direct contact with our school population, about 8,500 employees.”

DeSantis’ announcement comes as Publix supermarkets begin administering the vaccine at 136 of their pharmacies across South Florida.

Pedro Lopez, a healthcare worker, received his first dose of the Moderna vaccine at a Publix pharmacy in Miami Shores, Monday morning.

“I’m definitely happy. I just didn’t want to get the virus,” he said.

Lopez said it took a little persistence to secure an appointment, but the registration process was simple and being able to come to a nearby Publix was convenient.

“It looks like it’s good news for a lot of people,” he said. “Luckily, I got in. I was able to register, register for myself, register for my wife — we’re healthcare workers — and I registered for my parents as well, so they should be coming in later on tonight.”

South Florida healthcare workers and seniors now have more options to get the vaccine, including at a Walmart in Lauderdale Lakes.

Lauderdale Lakes Mayor Hazelle Rogers visited the site to get her vaccine.

“We need to get the population out, put vaccines in arms, and that’s why I wanted to do this publicly, so my community will see that I took my vaccine,” said Rogers.

Monday night, Holy Cross Health in Fort Lauderdale announced they will be extending vaccine criteria to include people under 65 with certain medical conditions.

The vaccine rollout unfolds one day after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine got the go-ahead from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for emergency use for all adults.

It is ready to be shipped out to pharmacies and vaccination sites across the country.

Vaccine doses left a Kentucky UPS facility early Monday morning.

“Supply will be limited for the next couple of weeks following this initial distribution of nearly four million doses,” said White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients. “The company then expects to deliver approximately 16 million doses.”

Experts are making it clear that they recommend all three COVID-19 vaccines.

“All of these vaccines are very safe, and they’re very effective,” said Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky on CNN.

Unlike the Pfizer and Moderna alternatives, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires one shot and is easier to store.

“This means we now have three safe and highly effective vaccines that prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

As cellphone video of maskless revelers in close proximity continues to surface, Walensky cautioned that it is still too early to return to pre-pandemic routines.

“I am really worried about reports that more states are rolling back the exact public health measures we have recommended to protect people from COVID-19,” she said. “It’s not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”

As of Monday, the U.S. has reported 28,614,504 cases of the virus and 513,393 deaths.

Experts worry that cases and deaths are inching higher.

“The most recent seven-day average of cases, approximately 67,200, represents an increase of a little over 2% compared to the prior seven days,” said Walensky. “Similarly, the most recent seven-day average of deaths has also increased, more than 2% from the previous seven days to nearly 2,000 deaths per day.”

Starting Wednesday, Miami Dade College’s North Campus will become a federal mass vaccination site capable of administering thousands of doses a day.

For more information about vaccination sites in Florida, click here.

To check for vaccination appointment availability at Publix locations, click here.

For more information about vaccinations at Holy Cross Health and a list of the medical conditions that will qualify patients for an appointment, click here.

Anyone with questions and concerns about the coronavirus can call the Florida Department of Health’s 24-hour hotline at 1-866-779-6121.

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