A tray of COVID-19 vaccine vials. Credit: Getty Images.
Though Gov. Ron DeSantis had been floating as low as age 55 and older for residents who want vaccines, the governor Friday morning pushed the age group down to age 50 and older, expanding who can get vaccines in Florida.
“I think the demand has softened enough that we can open it up (for age 50 and older), the Republican governor said in a 45-minute news conference highlighting the vaccine front for Floridians.
At the same time, Democratic Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings in Orlando, overshadowed DeSantis’ remarks Friday, when Demings allowed age 40 and older residents to get vaccinated in the Orlando area beginning Monday, according to Central Florida media outlets.
DeSantis said at news conference related to a question from the media, “That is not his decision to make.”
It wasn’t clear what DeSantis plans to do about it.
In some ways, DeSantis will no longer be in full control of the vaccine rollout in Florida, given the Biden administration initiatives and local official actions.
For example, at the start of the month, DeSantis announced that vaccine eligibility would expand to teachers aged 50 and older.
But the Biden administration overshadowed DeSantis’ plans by allowing pharmacies participating in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program to vaccinate teachers and school personnel, regardless of age.
Now, the Orange County mayor plans to allow age 40 and older residents get vaccinated in the Orlando area, outshining DeSantis’s own announcement earlier Friday.
The governor apparently thinks Demings doesn’t have the authority to bypass the state’s schedule for COVID vaccine administration.
“There’s a structure in the state of Florida in terms of how these decisions are made,” DeSantis said at the news conference.
“Trying to do healthy 40-year-olds over finding, maybe, some more seniors — to me, would not be the direction that I would go in,” the governor said.
The Phoenix reached out to Demings’ communication team for comment and is awaiting a response.
It’s not clear how this clash of state government oversight and local decision-making power will pan out. And the federal government might have some say in the debacle.
According to WMFE, a news source for the Central Florida area, “Mayor Jerry Demings says the decision came after consulting with nearby Lake, Osceola and Seminole counties and representatives of the White House and the state.”
Mayor Demings’ wife is Val Demings, a Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives in Congress.
Another county mayor is looking to expand age eligibility for COVID vaccines, regardless of whether DeSantis gives the go-ahead. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava tweeted Friday that: “Age eligibility will expand to those 40+ on March 29, lowering the age by 10 years each week” at Miami-Dade county vaccine sites.
Right now, the DeSantis administration does not have an official timeline for vaccine eligibility for residents under 50, though he signaled Thursday that COVID-19 vaccines could soon become available to all adults in Florida some time in April – a move similar to President Joe Biden’s directive urging all state officials to expand vaccine eligibility to anyone aged 18 and up by May 1.
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