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In an effort to increase lagging vaccine rates in Miami-Dade County, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday that dozens of CVS Pharmacy y más and Navarro Discount Pharmacy stores will join the immunization effort — and that some police officers and school teachers over the age of 50 may soon be eligible to get vaccinated at a federal vaccine site opening up next week.
According to DeSantis, seniors 65 years and older can schedule vaccination appointments beginning Wednesday at all 31 Navarro stores in Miami-Dade County, and at the 35 locations of CVS Pharmacy y más, the chain’s brand for its locations tailored to majority Hispanic communities. One CVS Pharmacy location is also included on the list of 67 new retail vaccination locations in Miami-Dade.
DeSantis said the first vaccines at those locations will become available on Thursday, when the stores will aim to vaccinate 100 people per day.
Appointments can be made at CVS.com. People can also call CVS customer service at 800-746-7287 to schedule an appointment. Walk-in vaccinations without an appointment are not allowed.
DeSantis made the announcement Tuesday at a press conference held at a Navarro Discount Pharmacy in Hialeah packed with local and state elected officials who were masked except when addressing reporters. Markers on the floor advised them to remain 6 feet away, but social distancing was not possible in front of the pharmacy counter.
The governor’s announcement followed a report by the Miami Herald this month noting that vaccination rates among seniors in Miami-Dade County were lagging behind other parts of the state.
DeSantis noted Tuesday that 42% of Miami-Dade seniors have received their first doses, “close to the state average.” DeSantis said the new rollout at local pharmacies will raise those numbers.
“This pharmacy is going to be able to bring those numbers up very quickly,” he said. “They’re going to go above the state average because of this.”
While vaccinating seniors remains the state’s priority, DeSantis said federal vaccination sites — including in Miami-Dade — are “going to start” vaccinating police officers and teachers 50 years old and up. The federal site in Miami-Dade, located at Miami Dade College’s North Campus, will open next week, he said.
“We want that for [seniors] 65 and up but we also want that to be open to any sworn law enforcement [and] teacher; I think we’ll start age 50 or above,” he said. “We’re going to start for sure on the federally supported sites. As new vaccine comes online, then we’ll see what happens.”
Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho reacted to the announcement on Twitter, thanking DeSantis for announcing that teachers “will be next in line” for the vaccine. He said the school district “has been advocating for months on behalf of our educators.”
“Special consideration should also be given to frontline school-site employees,” he wrote.
Not every local official was happy with Tuesday’s press conference. Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernández, a DeSantis critic, showed up at DeSantis’ press conference and said he was not invited to the event despite it being held in his city. He commanded the attention of TV cameras before and after DeSantis spoke, criticizing the governor for not communicating with him or supplying adequate vaccine doses to the city government.
Hernández, who said he attended the event as a “citizen of Hialeah,” blasted the DeSantis administration for only allocating 1,000 vaccine doses to the city despite its status as one of Miami-Dade’s largest cities.
“I don’t know why he doesn’t want to talk to me or invite me anywhere when Hialeah is the sixth largest city in the state and one of the most affected,” Hernández said, standing at the governor’s lectern after DeSantis finished speaking and walked away, ignoring the mayor’s heckling.
A DeSantis spokeswoman removed a state placard from the lectern as Hernández spoke. “I just wanted to hear what he had to say. He didn’t say much about Hialeah if I’m being honest with you and the needs that we have in our community.”
Miami Herald staff writer Ben Conarck contributed to this report.