Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings continued to buck state policy on COVID-19 Thursday, announcing he is dropping the minimum age for vaccinations to 40 at the Orange County Convention Center vaccination site.
The new age standard goes into effect next Monday.
It’s the second time this month Demings has broadened COVID-19 vaccine eligibility in Orange County ahead of state policies. Early last week Demings revised Orange County standards to allow front-line workers, educators, and medically vulnerable people of any age to be vaccinated.
Demings said he is expanding the eligibility again because the county has capacity to vaccinate more people than are coming in currently, and because he sees a need.
“It is really important that we get these young adults also vaccinated. We’ve done a fairly good job with our seniors, and now we have to kind of move to that middle-ground young adult, the 40 year-olds and above. And that’s what we’re doing here,” Demings said.
As happened last week, Demings said he will be notifying Gov. Ron DeSantis of his decision. DeSantis allowed Demings’ first expansion.
There also are federal and state run vaccination centers in Orange County, but the Orange County Convention Center site is the largest. Technically, it is a state center, but Orange County owns the center and Demings is calling the shots there.
“I expect other counties are going to have to do the same,” Demings said. “They are going to have to expand their eligible pool. They will do that by lowering the age and expanding the criteria.”
Orange County is set up to vaccinate up to 3,000 people each day at the convention center. Demings said he thinks that can be increased if the new eligibility rule requires more capacity.
Demings also said officials have a responsibility to “drive up demand” and “we’re going to do our part to make sure it is available if they desire to do so.”
State data shows that about 16% of Orange County residents had received at least one shot by Tuesday.
“The quicker we can increase that number I think the better,” Demings said.
“By May 1, the (federal) directive is all adult Americans have to have access to the vaccine,” Demings said. “I think our community will be right there.”