Florida has officially opened vaccine eligibility for all adults in the state after prioritizing seniors in the early months of vaccine rollout.
As of Monday, April 5, Floridians 16 and older are eligible to sign up to receive a vaccine for the Chinese coronavirus, besting President Biden’s goal of having eligibility expanded to all adults in the U.S. by May 1.
“As of Monday, April 5, all Florida residents are eligible to receive any COVID-19 vaccine as prescribed by the Food and Drug Administration,” Florida’s Department of Health states.
Those 16 and 17 years old are authorized to receive the Pfizer vaccine, but must be accompanied by a guardian.
Gov. DeSantis previewed the decision last month, touting the state’s strides in vaccinating seniors over the past few months.
“We’ve now vaccinated over 70 percent of the roughly 4.4 million seniors living in the state. We’ve also made great progress on those age 60-64 and on those age 50 and older, and we’re ready to take this step,” DeSantis said at the time:
I’m pleased to announce that beginning this Monday, March 29, all Floridians age 40 and older will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Beginning the following Monday, April 5, all Floridians age 18 and older will be eligible. pic.twitter.com/gJ0HHmiINW
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) March 25, 2021
The news coincides with the controversy around a deceptively edited 60 Minutes segment that aired this weekend, casting the DeSantis administration of engaging in pay-for-play.
“Publix, as you know, donated $100,000 to your campaign, and then you rewarded them with the exclusive rights to distribute the vaccination in Palm Beach,” 60 Minutes correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi asked the governor, adding “how is that not pay-to-play?”
DeSantis blasted the “fake narrative,” but 60 Minutes omitted his full answer:
So, first of all, when we did, the first pharmacies that had it were CVS and Walgreens. And they had a long-term care mission. So they were going to the long-term care facilities. They got the vaccine in the middle of December, they started going to the long-term care facilities the third week of December to do LTCs. So that was their mission. That was very important. And we trusted them to do that. As we got into January, we wanted to expand the distribution points. So yes, you had the counties, you had some drive through sites, you had hospitals that were doing a lot, but we wanted to get it into communities more. So we reached out to other retail pharmacies — Publix, Walmart — obviously CVS and Walgreens had to finish that mission. And we said, we’re going to use you as soon as you’re done with that. For Publix, they were the first one to raise their hand, say they were ready to go. And you know what, we did it on a trial basis. I had three counties. I actually showed up that weekend and talked to seniors across four different Publix. How was the experience? Is this good? Should you think this is a way to go? And it was 100% positive. So we expanded it, and then folks liked it. And I can tell you, if you look at a place like Palm Beach County, they were kind of struggling at first in terms of the senior numbers. I went, I met with the county mayor. I met with the administrator. I met with all the folks in Palm Beach County, and I said, “Here’s some of the options: we can do more drive-through sites, we can give more to hospitals, we can do the Publix, we can do this.” They calculated that 90% of their seniors live within a mile and a half of a Publix. And they said, “We think that would be the easiest thing for our residents.” So, we did that, and what ended up happening was, you had 65 Publix in Palm Beach. Palm Beach is one of the biggest counties, one of the most elderly counties, we’ve done almost 75% of the seniors in Palm Beach, and the reason is because you have the strong retail footprint. So our way has been multifaceted. It has worked. And we’re also now very much expanding CVS and Walgreens, now that they’ve completed the long term care mission.
Publix also denied the allegations, deeming them “absolutely false and offensive”:
— Publix (@Publix) April 5, 2021
Florida has administered over 10.5 million doses of the vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s April 4 data.