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00000177-b32b-d5f4-a5ff-bbfb6e660000Here is the information you need to know about COVID-19 in Northwest Florida. We will keep this post updated with the latest information from local, and statewide agencies. For inforamtion from Centers for Disease Control and prevention: cdc.gov/coronavirusFor updates on Florida cases of coronavirus, visit the FDOH dashboard.The COVID-19 call center is available at 24/7 at 1-866-779-6121

50 Or Older In Florida? You Can Now Get Your COVID-19 Vaccine

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Beginning today, COVID-19 vaccinations are available to more Floridians, after the state drops the minimum age from 65. 

And more age reductions are on the horizon.

“I’m going to sign the executive order this morning lowering the age to 50 effective Monday; we’ll see how it goes next week,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis in making the announcement on Friday, after a reduction to age 60 last week.

As of Friday, more than three million senior Floridians had been vaccinated, according to the state Department of Health. That’s close to 70% of the state’s 65-and-older population. The governor points to a softening of demand for the vaccines in that age group.

“Once you get over that two-thirds of seniors, it definitely starts to really show down in terms of the demand,” the governor said. “There’s just a certain critical mass of seniors who really want it; but there’s definitely a segment who are opting not to get it.”

Seventy-five percent of seniors being inoculated, says DeSantis, is probably the high-water mark in that age group. The mark is expected to change with the lower age limit.

“As we go down to 50, people in their early 50s – some are going to want it, some won’t; obviously some have recovered from COVID and have immunity through infection,” DeSantis said. “And I think as we get below the age of 40 and into the 30s and 20s, I think it’s going to be way less than 50% of the folks who are going to want it. But you don’t know until you actually get it out there.”

There was some demand last week from people who had been waiting a while for the shots, the governor conceded, but it was not overwhelming.

“Part of it is we have more distribution points than we did back at the end of December; some of the people 60-64 qualified because they had had comorbidities so they had already gotten shots,” said the governor. “People are able to get appointments online much easier now. So we feel confident in going to 50-plus.”

“To date, the state of Florida has administered 111,000 doses in long-term care facilities; not just nursing homes or assisted living facilities,” said Jared Moskowitz, the state’s Emergency Management Chief, who added that such coverage has been across the board.

“We’ve been in HUD Section 202 facilities, independent living facilities, group homes for individuals with developmental disabilities; adult daycares, and residential treatment facilities,” said Moskowitz. “When the federal program had gotten started, it was still not fast enough – we had to take over 1,500 long-term care facilities.”

Also getting off to a slow start on vaccinations were some communities of color – many of the residents suspicious of just another government program. Moskowitz said early on, they realized they had to become creative and begin in the faith-based and minority communities. And they began in Pensacola’s Brownsville community the first week of January.

“A community that had been hit hard by Hurricane Sally; we had done a feeding drive there, so we had already partnered with a church,” Moskowitz said. “That was the pilot program and since then we’ve done 215 churches; we’ve vaccinated 70,000 people. In fact, the White House reached out to us about two weeks ago, and we gave a presentation.

And the bottom-bottom line, says Gov. Ron DeSantis, is that to vaccinate or not to vaccinate is a decision to be made solely by Floridians themselves. And as far as “vaccine passports,” government documents that show you’ve received your shots, which are gaining popularity in Europe, ain’t happening in Florida.

“One, it’s not fair because there are some people that have recovered from COVID who may not even be eligible for the vaccine or maybe they took a monoclonal antibody,” said DeSantis. “We wouldn’t have put all this infrastructure behind this, if we didn’t think it could be something that would be beneficial for Floridians to be able to do.”

While the next milestone is opening COVID shots to all adults, DeSantis does not know just when that will be. But he did make it clear that for Florida, it would be before the May 1 goal set by President Joe Biden.