Governor expands vaccine eligibilty as Orange County sees rise in COVID cases in young adults

Officials in Orange County say the expanded eligibility for vaccinations couldn’t have come at a better time. They want parents to encourage their children who are 18 and older to get the shot as soon as possible.

As more seniors get the COVID vaccine, Orange County officials are noticing an alarming trend in the younger population. COVID cases are on the rise in ages 18 to 25, "which is another reason why we must make the vaccine available to the younger age groups sooner than later," said Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings.

"Does that surprise you at all?" a FOX 35 reporter asked 19-year-old Cassidy Ceppos, of Orlando.

"No. Everyone’s trying to get back out as soon as they can," said Ceppos.

That made Thursday’s big announcement from the governor refreshing news. Starting Monday, anyone 40 and older across the state are eligible for the vaccine. The following Monday, April 5, it will open up to everyone 18 and older.

"We have made great progress and I look forward to continuing to work hard to make sure everyone in Florida who wants a shot, can get a shot. No mandate, but access for all," said Governor Ron DeSantis.

A graph shows that in just the last month in Orange County, COVID cases in people under the age of 40 have increased about 10%. Expanding eligibility could fix that, but health officials are also concerned about vaccine hesitancy among the younger population.

"Yes, the level of hesitancy of individuals in that age may be higher, not for the same reasons that we have in the older segment of the population but because they’re afraid of getting vaccinated," said Dr. Raul Pino with the Department of Health in Orange County.

But younger folks told FOX 35 News they are more than ready to get a shot in the arm.

"Been waiting. I thought I wasn’t going to get it until June but glad to hear it’s going to be a lot sooner than expected," said David Juarez, of Orlando.

"I’m excited to get it just so I can get back to school normally as soon as I can because we’re all kind of tired of being off campus," said Ceppos.