TAMPA, Fla. - Teachers, daycare workers, and all school staff -- regardless of age -- are now able to get the vaccine at CVS and Publix locations in the state of Florida, assuming they can get an appointment.
The announcement from the stores came Wednesday, the same day Governor Ron DeSantis’ new eligibility guidelines went into effect.
As part of his executive order, K-12 school workers over the age of 50 are able to book an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine at state- and county-run sites. However, CVS and Publix are part of a federal program that taps major pharmacy chains to help distribute the vaccine. The retailers say, as participants in a federal program, they'll follow the federal guidelines for eligibility.
Unlike the governor's order, President Joe Biden administration’s guidelines now allow all daycare workers, preschool teachers, and any K-12 school employee -- from bus drivers to cafeteria workers to speech therapists -- to be vaccinated.
Biden says his hope is for all school employees and child-care workers to have their first dose by the end of March.
"The federal government is the one sending us the vaccine," DeSantis acknowledged during a visit to Crystal River. "If they want it to be for all ages, then they have the ability to go and do that. So, the pharmacies are obviously going to accommodate that."
Teachers celebrated the news, saying vaccinations will make things much safer in schools where social distancing isn’t a reality.
"You are in a confined classroom, every day, where there is no 6-foot distancing and some teachers say not even two-foot distancing," said Wendy Doromal, president of the Orange County Classroom Teachers.
DeSantis said Florida's main goal is to continue focusing on the senior population.
"The federal government put that order in so that they’ve made the teachers, regardless of age, eligible. So, they are eligible to get vaccinated per that order," he said. "Our view is if you’re 25, you’re just at less risk than somebody who is 80. That’s just the bottom line. 95.7% of all COVID-related mortality has been above the age of 50."
"The age-based approach, we think, is the most effective to reduce mortality," he added.
CVS says the new policy change applies in all of its pharmacies across the country where the vaccine is currently being offered. Participating locations are fairly limited outside of South Florida. As of Thursday morning, just four CVS locations in the Bay Area currently offer the shot, but more should join as more supply becomes available.
LINK: To check the availability of vaccine appointments, head to the CVS website.
Publix says the change will take effect in their reservation system as of Friday.
LINK: To make an appointment at Publix, visit their website.
Reports indicate Walmart is making a similar change, but it’s yet to be determined whether more pharmacy chains participating in the federal vaccine program, including Walgreens and Winn Dixie, will follow suit and change their eligibility guidelines as well.