TAMPA, Fla. — Florida expanded eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine Monday to people 18 and up, while teens as young as 16 with a parent are also able to get a dose.
For people like the Rosen family, Monday marked the start of trying to get back to normal. A year ago, PJ Rosen says they were living in Brooklyn in the height of the pandemic.
“We could see the refrigerated trucks that were holding bodies,” said PJ. “I’m over the moon. I want to cry right now.”
It was also a tough year for 17-year-old Jessie Rosen. On their first day of eligibility, Jessie was able to get a dose of the vaccine.
“With my mom being high risk, if I were to hug my friend and they had COVID, I could get it, and I could give it to my mom, and my mom could like die. That’s awful,” said Jessie.
As part of Monday’s eligibility change, 16 and 17-year-olds are eligible for the Pfizer vaccine only, though they will need a guardian with them and must fill out the Florida Department of Health (FLDOH) COVID-19 vaccine screening and consent form.
At the Tampa Greyhound Track vaccination site, it was a busy morning, with cars snaking down the road outside the venue. Carole Covey, the site’s incident commander, said the process was still running smoothly.
“We’re anticipating lines throughout the day, but the process is set up so it still remains quick on the inside,” said Covey.
Magrey Devega came with his 17-year-old daughter to get the vaccine. He said Monday felt like a long time coming.
“A celebration in many ways, but also an acknowledgment of just how hard it has been for students like my daughter who’ve had so many parts of their lives unsettled,” said Devega. “And now it finally feels like getting back to normal.”
The day was also emotional for some parents who brought their teens to get vaccinated. Laura Manz, whose 17-year-old son got the vaccine, said she’s grateful and feels relieved.
“I’m very happy and now I know my family will be safe,” Manz said, through tears. “It’s a day we’ve been waiting for for a year, and he doesn’t have to have stress or anxiety about getting something that could possibly kill him.”
After Monday, April 5, the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine will no longer be offered at the four federally-supported sites, including the one in Tampa. The state says the sites will transition to the one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine on Tuesday. The state says the four main sites and the satellite sites will continue giving second doses of the Pfizer vaccine for people who got their first dose at those sites.
The state says the four federally-supported sites will administer up to 3,000 one dose Johnson and Johnson per day, per site.