TAMPA (WFLA) – Vaccine eligibility is expanding in Florida on Wednesday to include K-12 school personnel, sworn law enforcement officers and firefighters 50 years and older. But there is still confusion about the state’s plan to start vaccinating individuals under 65 years old who are “extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.”
“I’m on month 13 of being inside my condo,” Laura Unger told 8 On Your Side.
A year ago, after the first cases of coronavirus in the United States, Unger said her doctors told her “when a vaccine came out, I was to immediately get it no matter what it was, where it was.”
Unger has been diagnosed with lupus and other chronic autoimmune diseases. The 50-year-old from St. Petersburg said she hopes to become eligible for the vaccine on Wednesday with other higher risk Floridians.
“I think the rollout is absolutely horrific,” she said. “There’s absolutely zero organization.”
The executive order signed Monday by Gov. Ron DeSantis said that a doctor’s determination “shall include a statement that the patient meets the defined eligibility criteria established by a form prescribed by the Florida Department of Health.”
“That’s the question I think everyone in my shoes wants answered,” Unger said, “where is the form?”
8 On Your Side emailed the governor’s office and the Florida Department of Health communications office on Tuesday afternoon asking for a copy of that form or a list of criteria that makes someone under 65 eligible for the vaccine.
“I think they’re scrambling to get one done,” Unger said. “I reached out to you guys, you would get some answers and maybe provide some closure to me or some sort of relief then perhaps maybe in the next week or so I may get a vaccine.”
Late Tuesday night, 8 On Your Side received the DOH form.
Other states like New York have published lists of underlying conditions that make residents there eligible for the vaccine.
The CDC guidance updated on Feb. 22 divides medical conditions into two categories, either conditions that “are at an increased risk” or conditions that “might be at an increased risk” for severe illness from COVID-19.
The first category includes cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, down syndrome, heart conditions, immunocompromised state from an organ transplant, obesity, severe obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease, smoking and Type 2 diabetes mellitus.
The second category includes moderate to severe asthma, cerebrovascular disease, cystic fibrosis, hypertension or high blood pressure, weakened immune system from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids or use of other immune weakening medicines, neurologic conditions like dementia, liver disease, pulmonary fibrosis, thalassemia and Type 1 diabetes mellitus.