DeSantis dropping Covid vaccine eligibility to 18

DeSantis dropping Covid vaccine eligibility to 18

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference in Hialeah, Fla.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a news conference in Hialeah, Fla. | Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo

03/25/2021 09:44 AM EDT

Updated 03/25/2021 11:37 AM EDT

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday announced plans to open Covid-19 vaccine eligibility to people who are at least 18 years old, one week after criticizing a Democratic mayor for lowering the age requirement.

In a news release and video, DeSantis stated that there will be enough shots for younger residents since 70 percent of seniors in Florida have been immunized against the coronavirus. Beginning March 29, DeSantis will lower the age of vaccine eligibility to 40, and then one week later will drop it to adults 18 and older.

“While the Biden administration set a May 1st target date for vaccine eligibility for all adults, Florida is pleased to announce that all adults in the state age 18 and older will be eligible for the vaccine beginning Monday, April 5th,” DeSantis stated. “We have made great progress and I look forward to continuing to work hard to make sure everyone in Florida who wants a shot, can get a shot.”

More than 5.2 million Floridians were vaccinated as of early Wednesday, and DeSantis has said more doses will become available over the next few weeks as demand drops among younger residents. His vaccine distribution plan gave top priority in December to frontline health care workers, nursing home residents, and seniors aged 65 and older, and some parts of the state saw demand drop several weeks ago.

The May 1 deadline President Joe Biden announced on March 11 spurred a race among Florida and other states to quickly open Covid-19 vaccine eligibility. Georgia residents who are at least 16 years old became eligible for the vaccine on Thursday. Alaska, Arizona and Mississippi also offer shots to residents who are 16 and over. Last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom had said the vaccine will be available to all residents in the next few weeks.

DeSantis’ Thursday announcement came after Democratic Mayor Jerry Demings of Orange County last week dropped age eligibility to 40 and older at a county convention center vaccination site. When asked about a local elected official lowering the vaccination age, DeSantis shot back: “It’s not his decision to make.”

But Demings chuckled this week when asked if he feared retribution from the governor.

“Those are just words he’s using, you know, so we will move beyond that,” Demings said.


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