Orange County is opening COVID-19 vaccinations at its convention center to front-line workers, educators, and medically vulnerable people of any age.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings on Monday announced the new eligibility requirements at its vaccinations site in the underground garage beneath the Orange County Convention Center, one of the busiest in the state.
The drive-through vaccination operation there is state-run, though in collaboration with Orange County. Demings announcement is counter to the statewide requirements set by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Demings said he is switching to federal eligibility guidelines set out by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services because the convention center has the capacity to expand immediately, and because he sees a need to reduce the public’s confusion over who is eligible.
“Any educator, or support staff member regardless of age, including substitute teachers, bus drivers, day care workers with valid ID, can get vaccinated at this site. Firefighters, our sworn law enforcement officers of all ages are eligible. Health care personnel with direct patient contact are eligible. Any person who is 65 years of age or older, residents of long-term care facilities and their staff, can get vaccinated,” Demings said.
“And some very good news, the convention center site can now vaccinate any person who is deemed medically vulnerable by a medical professional. That means having your doctor fill out the Department of Health form that can be found on our website,” Demings said. “There are still plenty of appointments open here.”
Dr. Raul Pino, health officer for the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, said the county can expand the eligibility because it owns and operates the Orange County Convention Center.
The announcement gives Orange County three sites that are open to that much broader list of people, including two sites run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, at the Valencia College West Campus, and at the Kelly Park site near Apopka.
Demings said he is able to expand the eligibility “because of the under-capacity we have here at the convention center within the last several weeks. This site can easily serve 3,000 people on a daily basis. We have been coming in significantly under that number.”
He also said Orange County wants to reduce confusion among residents by using the same criteria that the federal government is using at the FEMA sites.
He said there clearly is a huge demand for the vaccine to be administered as soon as possible.
“All of these vaccination sites will tell you the joy that they are seeing from our teachers and others who are getting vaccinated,” Demings said.