Florida will soon lower COVID vaccine age eligibility to 55

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said that after the state makes people 60 and older eligible for the COVID vaccine on Monday, it will soon lower the age to 55 and then probably open it up to the rest of the population.

The governor said at a news conference in Sumterville, Florida that the process of vaccinating those between 60 and 64 may go quicker than expected because of the increase in the weekly supply the state is receiving. He said that each 5-year age group adds nearly 2 million people eligible for the vaccine.

"It’s all dependent on how we are doing with getting the 60 to 64 (age group). But that will happen relatively soon," DeSantis said. "As we know, a 60-year-old is less at risk than an 80-year-old, but a 60-year-old is more at risk than a 20-year-old. So I think it is important that we are able to get the 60 to 64."

DeSantis has faced criticism because some vaccine sites have seen low demand that has prompted administrators to offer the shot to any takers, breaking at random times from the eligibility requirements and then going back to tighter restrictions when demand surges.

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Hundreds of cars streamed bumper-to-bumper into a Miami vaccination site that appeared to be offering shots to anyone who showed up on Tuesday.

The federally supported vaccination site went back to meeting federal and state guidelines on Wednesday, limiting access to people 65 and older, health care workers, teachers, officers and fighters who are 50 or older, and people 16 and older who are extremely vulnerable to the virus and provide a form.

As of Wednesday, nearly 3.8 million Floridians had gotten at least one vaccine shot.

DeSantis on Wednesday also addressed recommendations instituted at the outset of the pandemic that he now says were "huge mistakes," such as canceling elective surgeries and closing gyms.

"Once we figured out that some of these things were not really the way to go, we made very quick course corrections," DeSantis said. "I think we were really the first state to be doing things like that, and I think that's proven to be the right case."

DeSantis on Sept. 25 lifted restrictions on the number of customers that restaurants and other businesses could have inside with some exceptions. He didn’t repeal local orders requiring masks, but he prohibited municipalities from imposing fines.

Some officials have expressed opposition to that order as they continue to try to enforce mask mandates, social distancing guidelines and curfews.

DeSantis and the independently elected Cabinet members, who also serve as the Clemency Board, voted 3-1 Wednesday to forgive any outstanding COVID-19 related fines. The only vote against the measure came from Florida's only elected Democrat, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.

"As we’ve seen, there have been unprecedented restrictions imposed on people, particularly at the local government level, on both individuals and businesses," DeSantis said. "Many of these restrictions, I think, have shown to be ineffective and I think they’ve unfairly penalized people."