Confusion lingers for Floridians under 65 who might now be eligible for vaccine

Reporter: Taylor Petras Writer: Jack Lowenstein
The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination to be administered in New Jersey is prepared at University Hospital, in Newark, NJ, Tuesday Dec. 15, 2020. (Kirsten Luce/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

K-12 school employees, sworn law enforcement officers and firefighters 50 years and older can start getting the coronavirus vaccine in Florida.

But confusion lingers Tuesday among those under 65 who doctors say are extremely vulnerable.

The governor announced people at high risk, for example people with cancer or diabetes, can also get the vaccine starting Wednesday.

But they need their doctor to fill out a Florida Department of Health form; however, the form doesn’t exist yet.

We asked Publix if people who booked appointments for Wednesday would be OK without the form.

“Beginning for appointments booked Wednesday for vaccines administered on and after Friday, Publix will require the form prior to vaccination,” a spokesperson shared in a statement.

If you’re under 65, have a doctor’s note and have an appointment at Publix Wednesday, you should be good. Don’t worry about the form.

But by Friday, Publix says you’ll need it.

The phones are busy at Dr. Antonio Gonzalez’s office in Immokalee. He’s the medical director of Community Medical Center.

“It’s increasing,” Gonzalez said. “Every day, it’s increasing more, and since yesterday, the phones are ringing.”

That’s because of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new executive order. It allows people under 65 who are considered extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 to get vaccinated at store pharmacies. They need a doctor’s note to prove it.

“So right now I would say if we have to prioritize our patients for who is at the highest risk, we need to probably focus on those on the list of definites,” Dr. Rebekah Bernard said.

Bernard told us she’s started to write notes for people, but now the state wants doctors to fill out a form created by the department of health.

Bernard and Gonzalez welcome the standardized form.

“I think it will help very much,” Gonzalez said.

“Sometimes you do have to make a bit of judgement call, or if you have to tell a patient no I’m so sorry, you don’t meet the criteria. it would feel a little bit better to have something to show them this is just us following the guideline, and we’re not trying to keep them from a vaccine,” Bernard said.

As for Walmart and Winn-Dixie, both stores say they’re working with the state to change their procedures to accommodate the 65 and under group.

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