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Fl leaders rush to vaccinate those age 50+ before eligibility expands

Older people getting vaccinated
Posted at 4:41 PM, Mar 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-26 17:14:29-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla.  — Hundreds of thousands more people will soon be eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine in Florida. The age requirement is dropping to 40 and older on Monday and all adults age 18 and older will be eligible for the shot starting on April 5th.

What will that mean for those in the older age groups who haven’t been vaccinated yet? Right now, the rush is on to vaccinate as many people age 50 and older before the criteria widens.

Florida leaders are putting a big emphasis on vaccine pop-ups like one that happened Friday at Silk Oak Lodge, a 55 and older community, in Clearwater. About 100 people got their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Community leaders wanted to ensure their residents could get the critical doses before eligibility expands, which they worry could force some at a higher risk to compete with younger and potentially healthier adults for an appointment.

The age requirements are dropping quickly in Florida. For months, state leaders prioritized those 65 and older as well as health care workers. Then, the age dropped to 60, then quickly 50, now 40 starting Monday, March 29 and everyone 18 and up the following week.

Tom Ayers got his second dose of the vaccine in Largo on Friday. He says he can’t believe how fast eligibility is expanding recently. “The past few weeks it’s like man, the floodgates are opening and now everybody is eligible. At first it was like people said ahh I can’t get it yet and now it’s like boom. It’s surprising that all of a sudden the state has opened up,” he said.

State leaders are encouraged by the high number of vaccines now coming into our state as manufacturing speeds up. The CDC says Florida could receive up to 1.2 million doses of the vaccine next week alone.

So far, 2.9 million Floridians are fully vaccinated. Of those, more than 2.4 million are age 55 and older, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Florida leaders say they’re confident that they will be able to handle the large influx of people who will soon be eligible for the shot.

Yet, those ABC Action News spoke with are just glad they got an appointment when they did and are looking forward to the activities they’ve missed the most.

“To be able to hug my family, that was the hardest thing. We are huggers in our family,” Helga Borsch said with enthusiasm.

“Now I can go out and party soon,” Shirley Rice added with a laugh.