Florida is lowering COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to include anyone age 60 and older starting March 15, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Monday.
Speaking at a news conference in Tallahassee, DeSantis said all state drive-thru vaccination sites as well as all pods and pharmacies will expand to include people 60 through 64, which makes about 1.4 million more Floridians eligible.
"We anticipate the demand to be pretty robust," DeSantis said. "While 82, 83% of the Covid-related mortality is concentrated amongst those who are 65 and up, it is the case that people who are between 60 and 64 are at an elevated risk vis-a-vis those who are much younger."
The state has been offering vaccines to people 65 and older since they became available in December, along with first responders. Last week, the state also began offering them to law enforcement and firefighters 50 and older, as well as all teachers and school staff under new federal guidelines.
Get South Florida local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC South Florida newsletters.
DeSantis said the state is starting to see demand for vaccines among seniors softening with appointments not being filled as quickly as they had been.
"The pharmacies have their windows to sign up, they're not gone in 10 minutes like they were a month and a half ago, sometimes the window will be open for an hour, an hour and 15, hour and a half," DeSantis said. "We think that that's a good sign because we think that we've reached critical mass on the senior population."
DeSantis said more than 2.6 million seniors, about 56% of the state's 4.5 million, have received at least one dose.
During Monday's news conference, DeSantis also railed against the latest federal stimulus package, which he said rewards states struggling with the virus while penalizing states that have fared better.
The Republican governor called on the federal government to revise the distribution model for the $1.9 trillion stimulus package approved by the U.S. Senate over the weekend. The package includes $350 billion in direct aid to states, with the amounts for each based on unemployment numbers. 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," he said. "They caused a lot of damage with their policies, and now they’re getting bailed out under this bill.”
The governor 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.