MIAMI (AP) – The CVS pharmacy chain is vaccinating Florida teachers under the age of 50, circumventing state orders that continue to limit coronavirus vaccinations to those over that age.
The network also began vaccinating daycare and preschool teachers on Wednesday, even though Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has yet to open the vaccination program to them. CVS is administering vaccines in two dozen cities across the state.
CVS said it is following the Biden administration’s guidelines released this week, which are more comprehensive for educators than Florida’s. For teachers, Florida limits the vaccine to teachers age 50 and older working in kindergarten through grade 12. Federal guidelines allow daycare workers, preschool teachers, and elementary school educators, intermediate and secondary are vaccinated without age limit.
“We have aligned with the updated Federal Retail Pharmacy Program guidelines by making appointments available to educators in pre-K through 12, and child care staff and workers in the 17 states where we currently offer COVID-19 vaccines.” the Rhode Island-based company said in a statement.
The chain had been working with DeSantis to expand the availability of vaccines. Its executives held a press conference with the governor last week when the chain announced that its Latino-focused subsidiaries in Miami-Dade County, Navarro Discount Pharmacies and CVS y Mas, would offer the vaccine.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program will prioritize all school personnel and child care workers this month, following President Joe Biden’s directive on Tuesday. Other pharmacy chains participating in the program in Florida include Publix, Walmart and Walgreens, but it was unclear if they would begin vaccinating younger educators as well.
The governor’s press office declined to comment on CVS’s decision.
The Florida Education Association, the state’s teachers union, said it was still trying to confirm that younger teachers get vaccinated.
Tracey Burger, a 49-year-old Miami high school English teacher, said Wednesday she was disappointed when DeSantis announced last week that she would not make the cut. Burger has barely left his home since schools closed a year ago when the pandemic began.
Then early Wednesday morning, a colleague warned him that after Biden’s announcement, the CVS Health website allowed younger teachers to book appointments. Got an appointment for Saturday.
“I started crying with relief that I was on track to 95% prevention,” he said. “I’ll keep wearing my mask and keep distancing myself socially, but I might consider going to an outdoor restaurant or a show now.”
Jennifer Milian, 41, an elementary school art teacher in Miami, said a coworker texted her early Wednesday to inform her that CVS was opening appointments for teachers of all ages.
“I hardly believed it was true,” said Milian, who immediately called her husband, also a teacher, and asked him to look into it. Soon he sent out computer screenshots of Thursday’s appointment confirmations.
“I was on the lookout for a while to see when it would be our turn,” he said. “Turns out today was magically.”
Spencer reported from Fort Lauderdale.
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