What’s your Florida COVID vaccine eligibility if you’re ‘high-risk’ but not 65?

8 On Your Side

TAMPA (WFLA) – Governor Ron DeSantis says Florida’s COVID-19 vaccination policy is seniors first. But what if you’re living with a condition that puts you at an even greater risk of death? 8 On Your Side is looking into the eligibility of this group.

If you’re under 65 with a comorbidity, you currently qualify to get the vaccine in Florida. But people in this high-risk group tell 8 On Your Side that sign-up is nearly impossible.

Florida’s new COVID-19 vaccine registration system states that currently eligible residents like health care workers, seniors and individuals deemed extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 can pre-register for the shot.

But as 62-year-old James Stevens discovered, if you’re in the latter group, despite the words on the computer screen, you actually can’t register on the site.

“What happens when you try to register with the state system?” asked investigator Mahsa Saeidi.

“It won’t allow me. It only looks at the age,” said Mr. Stevens. “I wish they weren’t telling me I’m eligible but then not allow me to register.”

Mr. Stevens says his doctor has determined he is highly vulnerable to COVID-19.

“She says I’m at high risk of having heart disease and high-blood pressure and COPD,” said Mr. Stevens.

“She’s written a letter for me to provide to get the vaccine.”

But to date, the 62-year-old has not been able to find a shot at a Tampa hospital.

As Gov. DeSantis explained during a news conference in The Villages Monday, hospitals are in charge of vaccinating Floridians, under 65, but extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.

“To have a pharmacist or a nurse have to referee someone’s comorbidity …this is something that the doctors have to handle,” DeSantis said.

The Department of Health says approximately 30,000 doses have been sent to 27 hospitals to vaccinate individuals like Mr. Stevens.

But viewers tell 8 On Your Side, they’re confused about the criteria being used to determine eligibility.

Right now, it’s unclear if hospitals are required to administer the 30,000 doses to this at-risk group.

“We sent about 30,000 to various hospitals saying, obviously, you can continue to do seniors, but the executive order does say, these comorbidities, we’re trusting you to do it,” said DeSantis.

Mr. Stevens and other viewers tell 8 On Your Side they feel forgotten.

Here’s a statement 8 On Your Side received from the Department of Health in Polk County:

“The Florida Department of Health and Division of Emergency Management allocated 28,500 to 27 hospitals throughout the state to serve individuals pursuant to the Executive Order to vaccinate persons who they deem to be extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.”

Those hospitals include:

  • Advent Health Orlando
  • Ascension Sacred Heart – Bay
  • Ascension Sacred Heart – Emerald Coast
  • Ascension Sacred Heart – Pensacola
  • Baptist Medical Center – Jacksonville
  • Baptist Medical Center – South
  • Cleveland Clinic Hospital
  • H. Lee Moffit Cancer Center & Research Institute Hospital
  • Holmes Regional Medical Center
  • Holy Cross Hospital
  • Jupiter Medical Center
  • Lakeland Regional Medical Center
  • Lee Memorial Hospital
  • Mayo Clinic
  • Memorial Regional Hospital
  • Morton Plant Hospital
  • Mount Sinai Medical Center
  • Nicklaus Children’s Hospital
  • North Florida Regional Medical Center
  • Northside Hospital
  • Orlando Health – Orlando Regional Medical Center
  • Palm Bay Hospital
  • St. Joseph’s Hospital – North
  • Tallahassee Memorial Hospital
  • UF Health – Shands Hospital
  • University of Miami Hospital and Clinics-UHealth Tower”

8 On Your Side has reached out to the state regarding this issue.

In the coming days, our team will work to get answers from the individual hospitals as well.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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