Vaccine momentum builds as DeSantis lowers access age

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
Yes Market Media via Shutterstock

The North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System began administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine Tuesday amid a flurry of good news regarding the COVID-19 pandemic that has engulfed the United States for more than a year. 

“Our health system is eager to be able to offer a third highly effective vaccine to more veterans,” Thomas Wisnieski, health system director, said in a statement. “This one-dose vaccine will be offered at our community-based outpatient clinics and help us reach our ultimate goal of offering the COVID-19 vaccine to all veterans and employees who want to be vaccinated.”

The news comes 10 days after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted Johnson & Johnson the third emergency use authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine, following those issued to Pfizer and Moderna in December. 

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As of Monday, the North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System had administered 32,400 first doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and both doses to 18,800 veterans. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine not only adds a third avenue of vaccine production, but it eliminates significant logistical issues since it only requires one dose.

Amid the expanding access, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Florida will lower the vaccine eligibility age to 60 next Monday, March 15. 

“Well over 2.6 million seniors have had a first dose reported,” DeSantis said. “We know that the reporting lags. It’s probably significantly higher than that.” 

Meanwhile, this week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its first guidance for fully vaccinated people. The guidance said vaccinated people are safe to gather indoors without masks or social distancing and to interact with unvaccinated people who are at low risk (such as grandparents hugging grandchildren). The CDC continues to recommend that vaccinated people wear a well-fitting mask and social distance when in public spaces and to continue avoiding large gatherings. 

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