Florida teachers, firefighters and police 50 and older will be able to get shots under an infusion of thousands of doses of COVID vaccines to the state under federal programs, Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference in Hialeah Tuesday.
“Our goal is to be able to get that as more vaccine becomes available,” DeSantis said, adding that he was “excited about the federally supported sites” opening next week in Miami, Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa.
With the tens of thousands of additional doses coming into Florida through the federal retail program and the vaccination centers, Florida should be able to expand its vaccination program beyond just seniors aged 65 and up.
“I want to open not just to seniors,” DeSantis said, specifically naming police, firefighters and teachers 50 and older.
DeSantis was at the Navarro Discount Pharmacy in Hialeah to announce the expansion of a federal retail pharmacy program that began under the Biden administration and already includes Walmart, Sam’s Club, Publix and Winn-Dixie stores.
The federal program started at 1 million doses a week nationwide, but was doubled to 2 million doses in its second week.
‘Retail pharmacies are a big part of our … strategy’
CVS Health, already responsible for thousands of nursing home residents’ vaccinations, will begin to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to its customers at 81 stores across Florida, including 67 in Miami-Dade County run by Navarro, a once independent chain bought by CVS in 2014.
“These sites at select CVS Health locations will build on the progress we’ve made at existing retail sites and provide greater access to the vaccine in Florida’s communities,” DeSantis said.
“Retail pharmacies are a big part of our state strategy,” DeSantis said, noting the success of the Publix partnership with the state. “We’re going to continue doing that.”
Appointments and locations will become available later this week as stores receive shipments of the vaccine, CVS said in a statement provided to the USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida.
Patients must register in advance at CVS.Com or through the CVS Pharmacy app. CVS expects to get about 62,000 doses a week, company officials said.
“We want to make sure the vaccine is distributed to those who need it most,” said Ahmed Velez, regional director for CVS Health. “One of our greatest strengths as a company is our presence in communities across the country.”
Participating stores will be in Broward, Collier, Escambia, Flagler, Hendry, Gadsden, Hillsborough, Manatee, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Polk, St. Lucie and Volusia counties. As the supply increases, CVS will add more stores in more counties.
The Florida expansion follows a Feb. 12 rollout at CVS stores in 11 other states.
Florida also should have received any delayed shipments of Moderna because of the winter storms, DeSantis said: “We basically have two times more Moderna than we had last week.” That is on top of the state’s scheduled shipment of 414,000 doses this week.
He said the state has vaccinated some 2.1 million seniors 65 and older, a number that may actually be closer to 2.5 million because of a 4-5 day lag in data. The state has 4.5 million seniors aged 65 and older.
As of Monday, the state had vaccinated a total of 2.7 million residents at least once and administered 4 million doses.
The governor’s Dec. 23 executive order only authorizes vaccination of people 65 and older, health care workers, people in long-term care, and people who are medically vulnerable.
But DeSantis said his office is surveying police departments and sheriff’s offices to find out how many sworn officers are 50 or older, and of those, how many would get vaccinate
“Presently, the state authorizes us to vaccine 65+, as well as healthcare workers and EMS,” said Joe Good, senior director of corporate communications for CVS. If the state authorizes the pharmacy to expand eligibility in the future, he said, “we would do so.”
In addition to the latest initiative, CVS has been vaccinating residents and staff of nursing homes, assisted care facilities and other long-term care facilities since Dec. 23 under a federal long-term care facility program.
As of Monday, CVS had administered 100% of 123,626 first and second doses at 484 skilled nursing homes, and 87% of second doses for 1,583 assisted living and other facilities for a total of 109,217, Good added. The company said it expects to complete second doses by mid-March.
Jeffrey Schweers is a capital bureau reporter for USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida. Contact Schweers at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @jeffschweers.
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