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'It's long overdue': Teachers soon could be included in Florida's vaccination pool at federal sites

Gov. Ron DeSantis says the federally funded vaccine sites will cater to first responders and teachers who are 50 and older.

TAMPA, Fla. — For some, peace of mind comes in a small vial.

"Especially for some of us that were eLearning originally and came back to the building. There's definitely a heightened sense of worry," Hillsborough County Spanish Teacher Carolina Plested said.

She's one of many waiting for a COVID-19 shot. After fighting her own battle with the virus months ago, she's now recovered and back in the classroom.

"I don't think it's really safe, but it is good seeing the kids again," Plested said.

Even with desks 6-feet apart, masks, and hand sanitizer, she still feels vulnerable. 

"I assumed that teachers would be next in the line. We're also considered frontline heroes as well, because of the community service work we do every day in the classroom," Plested said.

For months, Florida's vaccine rollout has focused on seniors.

"Teachers have not been prioritized in Florida. In states up north like Virginia, teachers have already received their second vaccine," Plested said.

But four federally funded COVID-19 vaccine sites opening next week could change that.

"When these federal sites open, we also want that open to any sworn law enforcement officer or teacher. We'll start 50 (years old) and above," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a press conference held Tuesday morning in Miami.

DeSantis says federally added doses allow the state to branch out to different groups. 10 Tampa Bay reached out to the governor's office to get more clarification on who will be able to get a shot at the sites opening on March 3. We have yet to hear back.

"We will start, for sure, at these federally vaccinated sites. As more vaccines come online, we'll see what happens," DeSantis said.

Scientists argue this decision is long overdue. Anyone who is at high risk, meaning they're exposed to large groups of people, should've been eligible sooner.

"We're talking about high risk and people who really truly have no choice, but to be out there doing their jobs. So I think they fall under that essential workers category. For that you shouldn't be considering the age at all," USF Public Health Epidemiologist Dr. Jill Roberts said.

President Joe Biden last week said teachers should move up in priority for getting the vaccines.

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