TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) — Citing increasing COVID-19 vaccine supply as a factor, Governor Ron DeSantis suggested Thursday that vaccinations for the general public could come as early as April.

The governor’s announcement underscored confidence that the wider availability of vaccines, especially Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine, will allow the state to quickly provide shots to anyone eager for one and boost lagging vaccination rates in rural counties.

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DeSantis said at a news conference in Lake City that the widened availability of shots would depend on vaccine deliveries from the federal government, but he also expressed confidence that production would soon ramp up.

DeSantis had already planned to lower the eligibility age for vaccinations to 55 — making that announcement just days after dropping it to 60 from the current minimum of 65. He said that was possible because of the state’s high rate of vaccination of seniors and softening demand among the oldest seniors.

“We could be in a situation to go down to 60 on Monday, we get to 55 relatively soon, and as the supply floodgates open, we could be in a position sometime in April where it’s just available and people can get it,” he said.

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The prospect of widespread availability of shots comes as the governor also announced a further expansion of the vaccination infrastructure that includes partnerships with retail pharmacies, including those at hundreds of grocery stores and chain drugstores.

The governor has been under pressure by critics to expand the distribution of vaccines, not just geographically but also socioeconomically. DeSantis has come under fire in recent weeks because of the appearance of inequities in vaccine distribution.

To date, about 3.8 million Floridians, including 2.7 million seniors over 65, have gotten at least one shot of three different vaccines approved in the United States to protect against the coronavirus. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require an initial shot and a booster shot weeks later.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires just one shot, and Florida health officials hope the single dose will prove popular, especially in rural reaches of the state where vaccination rates are lagging.

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(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

CBSMiami.com Team