PENSACOLA, Fla. — In just a matter of days, Floridians who are 65 and older may be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Speaking at Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola on Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he's signing an executive order that will allow people who are 65 and older to be vaccinated as the "first priority" once frontline health care workers and residents and staff members at long-term care facilities receive the vaccine.
"The state of Florida is prioritizing our COVID-19 vaccine for our seniors," DeSantis said. "They will have priority over ordinary workers who are under 65."
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In announcing this executive order, DeSantis is breaking from recommendations from a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee which recently said essential workers and people 75 and older should receive the vaccine next.
DeSantis argued that vaccinating the more vulnerable 65 and older population will cut down on COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.
"It makes no sense for someone that's 42 to jump ahead of somebody that's 70 years old," DeSantis said. "The problem is, people that are 73, 74 would be in the back of the line for a young 21-year-old worker who's considered quote, essential. That doesn't, I think, make sense."
DeSantis said that under his executive order, once a hospital finishes vaccinating all frontline doctors, nurses, and health care workers, they can begin administering the COVID-19 vaccine to people in the general public who are 65 and older.
In addition, the governor said county health departments are now receiving shipments of the vaccine and will begin administering it to people 65 and older as early as Monday.
"We want to work to get this out to our senior population," DeSantis said. "We think that's very, very important for reducing mortality, reducing the number of people who need to be hospitalized."
Hundreds of thousands of doses of COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have been arriving in Florida since last week, and DeSantis said he expects hundreds of thousands more doses to continue arriving every week for the "foreseeable future."
"There's a lot of great things going on. Lot of hope, lot of optimism," DeSantis said. "We're going where the risk is greatest, and where we think the impact will be the most consequential."
BREAKING: @GovRonDeSantis says he’s signing an executive order to vaccinate seniors 65+ as first priority after frontline healthcare workers. This breaks with latest @CDCgov recommendation that says some essential workers and seniors 75+ should be next. @FOX29WFLX @WPTV pic.twitter.com/fKxwNG0qtf— Stephanie Susskind (@StephanieWPTV) December 23, 2020
After the 65 and older population, DeSantis said Florida's next phase of COVID-19 vaccinations could include law enforcement officers, firefighters, teachers, and utility workers.
"Then I think you have an opportunity for kind of the broader public to be able to do it," DeSantis said.