HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. — It’s the question on the minds of millions of Floridians: When will I be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine?
The answer is harder to find in Florida compared to every other state in the nation.
Although Governor Ron DeSantis is now hinting at police officers, firefighters and teachers over the age of 50 being the next priority for the vaccine, there is not a written, tiered plan for how vaccinations will be administered.
Florida is the only state in the US that hasn’t told residents who will get shots next, once more doses are available, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization that’s focused on national health issues.
The focus in the Sunshine State has been exclusively on healthcare workers and those 65 and older.
Many other states have come up with a tiered plan that includes priorities for people with high-risk medical conditions, teachers, people working in grocery stores, prisons and in public transit.
“What we’ve seen is it just makes the public more anxious. There’s a lot of people who want to get vaccinated and they just want to understand when will it be my turn?” Jen Kates, the Senior Vice President of Global Health and HIV Policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation explained.
It leaves people like Kristi Peacock, who is under 65 and is a mom to teenagers, with a lot of questions.
“Yeah, I would love to know what the plan is and where we are in the lineup. I’m definitely anxious just because I want myself, my husband and our friends and family to be able to get the vaccine,” she elaborated.
Janet Mulligan says she’s frustrated. She’s just two months shy of turning 65 and has COPD, a condition that could put her more at risk for COVID-19 complications. Yet, she was turned away Wednesday from a vaccination site in her High Point Community in Hernando County.
“They said I’m not 65 yet and I cannot get it. I’m very upset with this. I have a hard time breathing,” she added.
ABC Action News pressed Governor Ron DeSantis for answers Wednesday. He explained that Florida leaders decided to put seniors age 65 and older first and now they’re waiting to see how supplies of the vaccine will increase before opening up appointments for other groups.
“Once we get to the point of the demand going down for the senior population. Then we obviously are going to lower the age and get people at a minimum of 60 and then maybe even 55 right off the bat, but it really is dependent on making sure we have the supply. What I didn’t want to do is say everyone sign up who’s 55 and up and then the vaccine supply not be there so we are very methodical with it we look at the numbers every day,” Governor DeSantis elaborated.
The Kaiser Family Foundation also points out that Florida hasn’t said when people who are under 65, but who have chronic health conditions, will be eligible to get the vaccine.
“Florida hasn’t done that and I think that has created challenges for a very vulnerable population who is anxious and doesn’t want to be at risk,” Kates said.
For those still waiting to get vaccinated, they say not knowing is the hardest part.
“This needs to be taken care of in our state of Florida now. Not later. Now,” Mulligan said sternly.