ORLANDO, Fla. - More locations are accepting educators and school staff of all age groups as part of expanded eligibility for the coronavirus vaccine.
The Orange County Convention Center has joined all federal vaccine centers, CVS, Publix, Walmart, and Winn-Dixie in offering the shot to All pre-K through 12 educators, staff, and childcare workers.
The Orange County teachers union notified its members of the expanded eligibility early Friday afternoon in a social media post.
"At the FEMA Site, the operations folks were saying how many teachers came yesterday [Thursday]. They remarked that the teachers were so excited and some tearful," read a Facebook post by the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association. "More good news! The Orange County Convention Center is now open for teachers of all ages to get vaccines!"
"I got my first shot for the vaccine. I'm super excited and glad that we finally could all get it," said teacher Holly Kennedy, "and I brought my mom because she's the senior. So I was happy for her to be able to get it as well!"
"I have been waiting forever to have it," said teacher Maria Demesa, "so today was like, OK, yay! I'm finally able to go to the classroom!"
Orange County officials said they are asking the state to open up COVID-19 vaccination appointments at the Orange County Convention Center to more people because it is currently operating under capacity.
The expanded eligibility comes after the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program was updated to include teachers and daycare staff following President Joe Biden's directive that all states prioritize school staff and childcare workers for COVID-19 vaccination.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said the Convention Center can handle up to 3,000 vaccinations a day, but the site had been operating below that number mid-week. The appointments had previously been filling up in less than an hour.
Mayor Demings said the county is now asking the Florida Department of Emergency Management if it can start offering appointments to people under 65 years-old who are extremely medically vulnerable. Demings said the Convention Center is a state-run vaccination site and must follow state orders for distributing the vaccine.
In addition to educators of all ages, the staff at the site can vaccinate seniors, long-term care residents and staff, healthcare workers, law enforcement, and firefighters.
"The ultimate goal here is to increase the output of the number of individuals who are being vaccinated in our community," Demings said.
To make a vaccination appointment at the Orange County Convention Center visit Orange County’s website.
Some districts are allowing their staff to take time off from work to get vaccinated.
Brevard, Osceola, and Volusia counties all said teachers can go during work hours. Orange and Flagler counties said teachers can work with their supervisors to schedule a time. Meanwhile, Lake County is actually planning a vaccination event exclusively for school employees.
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