Lee Health asks for doses to vaccinate frontline workers, the ‘extremely vulnerable’

Reporter: Dannielle Garcia Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:

Lee Health’s board of directors chairman David Collins sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis and the State to push to have more coronavirus vaccines supplied to the community health system and hospitals statewide.

MORE: Lee Health vaccine request letter to Florida

Collins and Lee Health specifically requested it be granted more shipments of vaccines due to lack of supply to vaccinate its frontline health workers in the hospital system, as well as those who don’t currently meet vaccine criteria in the state and are “extremely vulnerable” to COVID-19.

“With additional vaccines, we would be able to vaccinate our health care heroes, and based on the Governor’s Executive Order 20-315, those individuals under 65 who based on medical conditions are extremely vulnerable to COVID-19,” Collins wrote to DeSantis and the State.

In Lee Health’s letter, the community health system asserts it has the refrigeration requirements need to house the Pfizer vaccine at its facilities compared to other types of facilities such as Publix locations.

Collins wrote, “By allocating the Pfizer vaccine to hospitals such as ours, health care workers would be provided access to vaccine to ensure that they are able to protect the general public.”

Everyone has a story about why they need the vaccine.

“I have emphysema, so I have breathing problems a lot, and I do it an inhaler every day,” said Kathy Strough in Naples. “I have a rescue inhaler, and I also had a massive heart attack 10 years ago, and I have a stent, and also now, I have a heart murmur.”

Strough is 63 and doesn’t meet the criteria for a shot currently in the state, but the letter from Lee Health provides optimism.

“It would mean everything,” Strough said.

Mary Pringle has 14 adopted kids in her home in LaBelle.

“So the oldest is 27 with down syndrome, and the youngest is four,” Pringle said. “There’s four of them that are medically complex, and so I have two little guys that both had surgery and are in wheelchairs.”

Pringle went from being a social worker to finding her real calling as a full-time mother. All of her kids have ranging special and medical needs. But none of them can get the shot they so desperately need.

“Because of the seriousness of this virus, we’ve been home about a year now,” Pringle explained. “So that’s been a challenge in itself.”

Pringle’s family can’t leave because, if any one of her children get sick with COVID-19, it could kill them. Being at home is not an easy task either.

“They’re all huggers. They don’t understand that, ‘Yes, we know the Amazon guy now, but he’s not our friend. We don’t run and hug him,’” Pringle said. “Because you know we don’t know if he’s been around anybody that’s been sick.”

When they heard Lee Health asked the governor to get vaccines in hospitals for people like them, it was a sign of hope.

“The vaccine would put some normalcy back,” Pringle said. “Nothing in our life is normal now.”

Lee Health statement about doses for patients under 65 with underlying conditions

In a statement shared with WINK News, Lee Health confirmed, “We received a total of 1,000 Moderna vaccine doses from the State of Florida with explicit instructions to administer 900 of them to patients under the age of 65 who have underlying conditions that put them at high-risk for complications due to COVID-19.”

“The remaining 100 will be utilized for second doses for people who have already received the first. Using our electronic health record system, we were able to identify patients who meet this criteria and prioritize them by risk level. We are directly contacting the patients at highest risk and scheduling them to be vaccinated this week.”

Lee Health told us it’s important to emphasize Lee Health will contact patients directly and people should not call to request an appointment.

“Doing so overwhelms our phone lines and prevents others who are calling on other business to connect with the health system. To keep distribution fair and unbiased, we are contacting patients based on risk level, and we will not be able to make any appointments for those who call in to check their eligibility.”

MORE: See CDC list of underlying conditions Lee Health is using to determine risk

Copyright ©2023 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.