Florida to lower age eligibility for COVID vaccine to 60

Author: The Associated Press; Breana Ross/ WINK News
Published: Updated:
FILE – In this Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021 file photo, pharmacy technician Sochi Evans fills a syringe with a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Texas Southern University in Houston. Coronavirus cases are continuing to decline in the U.S. after a winter surge. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University say the seven-day average of new coronavirus cases in the country dropped below 100,000 on Friday, Feb. 12 for the first time since November 4. (Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP, File)

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday that he would drop the eligibility age for the coronavirus vaccine from 65 to 60, allowing 1.4 million more Floridians to get vaccinated starting next week.

DeSantis made the announcement at a news conference in which he also railed against the latest federal stimulus package, which he said rewards states struggling with the virus while penalizing states that have fared better.

Julie Blewis waited patiently as she watched her husband get his shot and even helped six people book their appointments. But at 64 years old, she just missed the cutoff to sign up for a shot herself.

“I always understood there had to be a cutoff, and unfortunately it cut off right at me,” Blewis told WINK News. “But that’s the way it goes.”

Blewis says she’s happy about the governor’s announcement, but she knows she has her work cut out for her.

“Southwest Florida is still tough,” Blewis said. “It’s still a lot of problems making appointments, but at least, I can now join the game and give it a shot.”

As of Sunday, nearly 3.6 million Floridians had gotten at least one vaccine shot, almost three-quarters of them 65 years or older. Other eligible groups include law enforcement officers, firefighters, health care workers, teachers and people 16 and older who are extremely vulnerable to the virus.

“This is the right time to do it,” DeSantis said of lowering the age requirement. “We’re starting to see the demand soften” among seniors 65 and up, which was the first group in the general population the governor authorized to be vaccinated. “We think that that’s a good sign because we think that we have reached critical mass on the senior population.”

With more people joining the game, Cindy Mihm worries that will lower her chances of securing an appointment. She’s also 64 but has underlying conditions, so she’s been at it for months.

“I’ve had 10 heart attacks, two open heart surgeries. I have diabetes,” Mihm said. “I’ve been dog tired trying to do it for months now, and now that more people are going to be trying, it’s going to take me even longer and harder to keep trying.”

Mihm has a hard time imagining the process becoming any harder.

“I can’t keep going through this. It’s too much for me,” Mihm said. “Sick people should not have to be doing this in order to try to save our own lives. They’re making sick people more sick trying to do this.”

With more people eligible for their shot, Mihm hopes Southwest Florida gets more shots because her life and so many other lives depend on it.

At the same news conference, the Republican governor called on the federal government to revise the distribution model for the $1.9 trillion stimulus package approved over the weekend. The package includes $350 billion in direct aid to states, based on the number of unemployed people in each state. DeSantis said that model punishes states that moved to quickly reopen their economies after the widespread shutdowns precipitated last year by the outbreak.

DeSantis asserted that California, New York and New Jersey will get billions of dollars more, and he said it was “fundamentally unfair.”

“All these states have something in common: They’re all deep-blue states under Democratic control and they are lockdown states. They caused a lot of damage with their policies, and now they’re getting bailed out under this bill.”

DeSantis argued the aid should be doled out on a per-capita basis. Under that model, Florida, as the country’s third most-populous state, would get an estimated $2 billion more on top of the $17.3 billion it is projected to currently get.

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