LAKE CITY, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday morning that most Florida residents could be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by next month.
DeSantis made the announcement in Lake City at a vaccine site in Columbia County where they are receiving 1,000 more doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
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DeSantis said around 70 percent of seniors in Palm Beach County have now been vaccinated. He said around three million seniors in Florida have now received the shot.
He said the demand for seniors wanting the vaccine continues to soften, which will allow the state to lower the age of those eligible to get the shot. The state is lowering the age requirement to 60+ on Monday.
With the increased supply of vaccines, DeSantis said the state may be able to lower the age requirements sooner than previously anticipated.
"I do think once we get into April it maybe anyone that's eligible under the EUA (Emergency Use Authorization), we may just be able to open [the vaccine] up," DeSantis said. "We're not there yet, but we may be able to do that."
The state has not received any additional doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week, but the governor was optimistic about more shipments in the next couple of weeks.
"If the [vaccine] supply floodgates really open, we could be in a position sometime in April where it's just available, and people can get it, so that's really exciting," DeSantis said.
The governor held a second news conference in Jacksonville where he announced Walgreens sites offering the vaccine will expand from 12 to 97 stores. Four of the Walgreens stores offering the vaccine will be in Palm Beach County.
He said the appointments at the Walgreens locations were open Thursday with the shots being given starting Friday.
"We think we're going to be able to expand [the retail program] even more next week, and we'll have an announcement about that," the governor said.
He said he is hopeful that the vaccine age requirement can be lowered to 55+ "relatively soon."
"Ideally, you want everyone to be vaccinated. The reason why we had to give folks who are at more risk is because we didn't have enough supply. So, as we have more supply, everybody should be able to get the vaccine. Everybody should get the vaccine, so it's great news," Dr. Olayemi Osiyemi said.
Osiyemi said people are becoming more comfortable getting the vaccine but herd immunity won't happen overnight.
As the supply ramps up, Palm Beach County leaders said everybody who wants the shot should have it by summer.
"Each time we open it up, there's a rush, and I think people are going to have to realize it's not all going to be available the first day," said Palm Beach County Vice Mayor Robert Weinroth.
DeSantis issued an executive order Wednesday that cancels all fines related to local government coronavirus restrictions.
"I just think those fines are out of control, and we want to make sure that folks are protected. Most of those restrictions have not been effective. That's just the reality," the governor said.
The governor's order, signed Wednesday, states that any fines on people and businesses imposed by local governments in Florida since March 2020 because of "unprecedented local government restrictions" are remitted.
DeSantis' order does not apply to any COVID-19-related orders or enforcement taken by the state.
It also does not cancel fines imposed on assisted living facilities, hospitals or health care providers.