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CVS, Walmart, Winn-Dixie and Publix offering COVID vaccine to all Florida teachers

The Biden administration released guidelines this week, which are broader for educators than Florida's.

MIAMI — CVS Pharmacy, Publix, Winn-Dixie and Walmart are vaccinating Florida teachers under age 50, circumventing state orders that continue to limit coronavirus inoculations to those over that age.

The chains also began vaccinating daycare providers, even though Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has not yet opened the vaccination program to them.

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 daycare 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 eligibility requirements for individuals to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at Publix Pharmacies in Florida have expanded," Publix wrote. 

The grocery chain says it will starting booking appointments for those who fall under this category on Friday, March 5.

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 and Walgreens, but it wasn't clear if they would also start vaccinating younger educators.

Winn-Dixie grocery stores have also expanded their vaccine eligibility to include educators and medically vulnerable individuals under the age of 65.

The newly eligible groups include daycare workers, preschool teachers and educators in elementary, middle and high schools to be vaccinated with no age limit.

The governor's press office declined to comment on the 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.”

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Spencer reported from Fort Lauderdale.