MIAMI — 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 Florida Education Association, the state teachers union, said it was still trying to confirm younger teachers are getting shots.
Tracey Burger, a 49-year-old Miami high school English teacher, said Wednesday that she was disappointed when DeSantis announced last week that she would not make the cut. Burger has barely left her house since schools closed a year ago when the pandemic began.
Then early Wednesday a colleague alerted her that after Biden’s announcement, the CVS Health website was letting younger teachers book appointments. She got an appointment for Saturday.
“I started crying with relief that I am on my way to 95% prevention,” she said. “I will still wear my mask and keep socially distancing, but I might consider going to an outdoor restaurant or show now.”
Jennifer Milian, 41, an elementary school art teacher in Miami, said a coworker texted her early Wednesday to let her know that CVS was opening appointments to teachers of all ages.
“I almost didn’t believe it was true,” said Milian, who right away called her husband, also a teacher, and asked him to look into it. He soon sent computer screenshots with the confirmations for Thursday appointments.
“I had been on the lookout for a while to see when it would be our turn,” she said. “It turns out it was magically today.”
Spencer reported from Fort Lauderdale.