Florida expands COVID-19 vaccine access for medically vulnerable people under 65

People under 65 in Florida who are medically vulnerable to COVID-19 will now have more options to get the vaccine.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 21-47, which states physicians, advanced practice registered nurses, and pharmacists can vaccinate people “determined by a physician to be extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.”

The executive order goes into effect Wednesday.

Before, hospitals were the only places that can administer vaccines to people under 65 with comorbidities.

Heather Black has severe asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which she said makes her at higher risk for COVID-19.

“I’m afraid if I were to catch COVID with my severe asthma, I could end up in the hospital or possibly in ICU,” Black said.

QUICK LINKS: How to make a COVID-19 vaccine appointment in the Jacksonville area

The Jacksonville mother said she’s been waiting for weeks to get the COIVD-19 vaccine.

“I feel like, up to this point, medically high-risk people under 65 have been forgotten in all of this,” Black said.

Now, Black said she feels hopeful after learning Monday that Florida is entering a new phase of vaccine access for people with comorbidities under 65.

“I felt such a sense of relief,” Black said.

The new order is causing some confusion among those medically vulnerable who said it’s unclear if a doctor’s note is needed.

Initially, Publix stated no documentation is needed to receive the vaccine, and it will take the patient’s word that a doctor says they qualify. On Tuesday morning, Publix said it would require the form mentioned in the executive order.

That form, titled COVID-19 Determination of Extreme Vulnerability, can be found by clicking here.

The executive order states “such physician determinations shall include a statement that the patient meets the defined eligibility criteria established by a form prescribed by the Florida Department of Health.”

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Action News Jax reached out to pharmacies and received the following statements:

In a statement, CVS expressed: “We’re working closely with the state and we’ll develop a process that ensures that patients have access to vaccines in line with the Governor’s new executive order.”

In an official statement from Walgreens --

As part of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program, Walgreens will be providing a limited number of vaccinations in 28 states and jurisdictions. Retail pharmacies participating in the program will vary by state and territory, and Florida is not on the initial list assigned to Walgreens. You can find information about which pharmacies are providing COVID-19 vaccines in Florida through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program on the CDC’s website, and more information on how Walgreens is partnering with federal and local governments to expand vaccine access is available on the Walgreens Newsroom and our website.

All vaccine doses that are allocated to Walgreens in the state of Florida are part of our commitment to administer vaccines to eligible individuals at long-term care facilities per state guidelines. We are operating in compliance with the plan and the timeline Florida submitted, which was approved by the CDC. For more information on Florida’s vaccine distribution plans, please visit the Florida Department of Health’s website: COVID-19 Vaccines in Florida.

The latest information and data regarding Walgreens’ long-term care facility vaccination efforts are available on our website, with updates provided regularly, and more information on our efforts to support communities during the COVID-19 pandemic is available here.

Publix initially said, “As outlined in the Governor’s executive order, currently individuals need only communicate they have a qualifying condition as determined by a doctor in order to receive the vaccine, and we are not asking for documentation at this time.”

On Tuesday morning, Publix sent Action News Jax an updated statement: “Additional guidance has been provided to the Governor’s executive order. There will be a form that is required to be filled out by a physician for those under 65 and deemed to have a qualifying condition. Beginning for appointments booked Wednesday for vaccines administered on and after Friday, Publix will require the form prior to vaccination.”

Walmart also shared the following: “This weekend Governor DeSantis issued an Executive Order broadening the eligibility criteria. We are in the process of updating our internal processes and the scheduling system to reflect new eligibility.”

Action News Jax is waiting for a statement from Walgreens and Winn-Dixie.

Read the full executive order below:

EO_21-47 by ActionNewsJax on Scribd