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The federal government has moved to make all teachers, regardless of age, eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

This comes after a decision earlier this week by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to lower the eligibility age for school personnel from 65 to 50. Now there’s no age limit for teachers. 

Among the first teachers under 50 to receive the vaccine is Tara Lombardi. 

Lombardi is 42 years old and teaches at Deltona Lakes Elementary School. Her son, Alex, has a compromised immune system because of Stage 4 neuroblastoma cancer, and Lombardi has had to take extra precautions to keep her him COVID-free, like wearing a full suit of PPE all day, every day, at school.

Needless to say, Lombardi is ecstatic that she can get her first vaccine shot so soon.

“This is a big deal for me,” she told The Beacon. “I’m still going to take all of the precautions, but I need to know I’m doing everything I can to prevent my son from getting it.”

Lombardi is scheduled to receive her first shot March 8

Another Volusia County teacher, who preferred to remain anonymous, told The Beacon they are scheduled for their first appointment in the coming weeks. While under the age of 50, they live with their parents, and have worried about bringing COVID-19 home.

SUITED UP — Deltona Lakes Elementary School teacher Tara Lombardi wears a full suit of PPE to school each day. With a child at home who survived a bout with cancer, Lombardi said anything she can do to protect her and her son is necessary.

When asked whether they expected to be eligible so soon, the teacher responded, “No way!”

At a March 4 press conference, Gov. DeSantis was somewhat resistant to the federal move, praising the state’s policy thus far of prioritising age over other factors for vaccination eligibility.

“Our view is if you’re 25, you’re just at less risk than someone who is 80,” he said. “The age-based approach, we think, is the most effective to reduce mortality. At the same time, the federal government is the one sending us the vaccine. If they want it to be for all ages, they have the ability to go and do that.”

Under the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccination, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, “Teachers and staff in pre-K-12 schools and childcare programs will be able to sign up for an appointment at over 9,000 pharmacy locations participating in the program nationwide.”

This includes pharmacies like those at CVS, Publix, Walgreens and Winn-Dixie, as well as federally operated sites, including a Federal Emergency Management Agency location in Orlando. Volusia County-operated vaccine clinics will not be included in the order, and eligible teachers will not receive any notice through Sharecare, the state’s pre-registration system.

“Individuals wishing to receive a vaccine who fall under the federal order regarding educators, but outside the parameters of the Florida Governor’s state order will need to seek alternate vaccination opportunities,” Volusia County spokeswoman Kate Sark said.

Volusia County is holding several closed events in the coming weeks for first responders and K-12 school employees ages 50 and older.

During the March 6 press conference, DeSantis also doubled down on his assertion that that vaccination will be more widely available for people under the age of 65 sometime this month.

For newly eligible educators, pharmacy appointments can be scheduled online at pharmacy websites. For more information or to schedule an appointment, visit websites for CVS Pharmacy, Winn-Dixie, Walgreens and Publix.

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