BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
FLORIDA — The CVS Pharmacy chain is vaccinating Florida teachers under age 50, circumventing state orders that continue to limit coronavirus inoculations to those over that age.
The chain also began vaccinating day care and preschool teachers Wednesday, even though Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has not yet opened the vaccination program to them. CVS is giving inoculations in two dozen cities across the state.
CVS said it is following Biden administration guidelines released this week, which are broader for educators than Florida’s. For teachers, Florida limits the vaccine to classroom teachers 50 and older who work in kindergarten through 12th grade. The federal guidelines allow day care workers, preschool teachers and educators in elementary, middle and high schools to be vaccinated with no age limit.
“We’ve aligned with updated Federal Retail Pharmacy Program guidelines by making appointments available to pre-K through 12 educators and staff and childcare workers in all 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 vaccine availability. Its executives held a press conference with the governor last week when the chain announced 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 staff 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 wasn’t clear if they would also start vaccinating younger educators.
The governor’s press office declined to comment on CVS’ decision.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— CDC chief: Wear masks, follow federal guidelines
— Biden stands by timeline of vaccines for all US adults by May
— Drug maker says India vaccine is 81% effective
— European countries seek vaccine ‘overdrive’ to catch up
— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The U.S. government needs to boost vaccine supplies if it wants New Mexico to meet a new mandate for getting at least one shot into the arms of all teachers by the end of March, top state officials said Wednesday.
Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins during a briefing said the state already has vaccinated more than 15,000 educators and that the group was next in line to be prioritized under New Mexico’s phased approach to distributing vaccinations. Still, state officials have been reluctant to offer a timeline for expanding eligibility given ongoing supply issues.
“They are a priority for us as well so we’re going to work closely with the White House to figure out how to make this happen,” Collins said of the push to get more teachers vaccinated. She said discussions were underway with the Biden administration.
Many New Mexico school districts have opted not to dramatically increase in-person learning despite approval from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. Some have opened on a limited basis, allowing students to attend in-person based on the availability of teachers who volunteer.
Citing supplies as a limiting factor, Lujan Grisham said in a statement she was hopeful Biden’s directive was an indication that the federal government would be sending more support to the states to get schools opened safely on a faster timeline.
MINNEAPOLIS: Minnesota state and health officials on Wednesday celebrated the arrival of the first shipments of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, saying it will help speed up the pace of vaccinations and a return to normal in the state.
Gov. Tim Walz visited an M Health Fairview warehouse in Minneapolis that was one of several sites across the state to receive a share of the state’s initial 45,200 doses of the new vaccine. Minnesota won’t get any more for the next week or two, but the governor expects deliveries of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to rise in the meantime.
“This is a good vaccine. It’s 100% effective against death, it’s almost that against hospitalizations or severe disease,” Walz said at a news conference after his tour. “I’ll tell Minnesotans, when you get the opportunity, roll up your sleeves and take the vaccine.”
MONTPELIER, Vt. -- An outbreak of COVID-19 at the Vermont state prison in Newport has grown to 100 inmates and eight staff members, making it the largest outbreak at a Vermont correctional facility since the start of the pandemic, the commissioner of the Department of Corrections said.
“It’s all hands on deck for our response,” Corrections Commissioner Jim Baker said in a statement Tuesday, adding that the prison is being treated as though it were a hospital.
Officials are coordinating with the department’s medical contractor, regional hospitals, the State Emergency Operations Center and the Vermont Department of Health to ensure the well-being of the staff and inmates, he said.
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