WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — School employees of every age can now get the vaccine at select locations, but they are facing the same challenges many people 65 years and older have faced for weeks trying to get appointments.
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Teachers under the age of 50 years old have access to the vaccine at certain pharmacies, but it is already proving to be challenging to get an appointment.
Many pharmacies are still updating their booking sites to open appointments to all school employees.
Although Publix's website is not showing updated eligible groups, the company said all K-12 employees and day care workers can book appointments.
"I think the biggest challenge right now for the educator is a lot of those online portals, Publix, CVS a lot of these things open at 7 a.m. At that point, we are all on our way to work, if we're not already at work," said Palm Beach County teacher Emily Carter.
Carter, who is under 50 years old, has concerns about being exposed every day in the classroom. Her sentiments are echoed by younger teachers everywhere, even if their risk of severe symptoms is much lower.
"My biggest concern was bringing it to family members who are more vulnerable," teacher Angela Leclaire said.
LeClaire said she has been on every site that is offering the vaccine to school employees of any age.
"You have to stay up really late for Walmart and Sam's Club. You have to wake up really early for Publix and Winn-Dixie, and it's like a losing battle," Leclaire said.
Southeastern Grocers announced Friday that 55 Winn-Dixie pharmacy locations will now be added to the 69 locations already offering the vaccine including stores in Palm Beach County.
Educators will find new prompts in the booking process to verify their eligibility. It will take some growing pains, but school employees are hopeful they can get the vaccine before eligibility expands to more groups.
"Yesterday I felt this sigh of relief of, 'Wow, it's a great day,'" Carter said.
The governor has said Friday that more eligible groups will be announced this month once the vast majority of seniors have had the chance to get the vaccine.
"We will then look at lowering the age, and we will make an announcement on that, but that will happen sometime in March, and once we have the firm date we will let everybody know about it," DeSantis said.