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UPDATE: FEMA Vaccine Sites Will Accept Florida DOH Note That You Are Medically Vulnerable


An executive order from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis taking effect Wednesday is expanding eligibility to COVID-19 vaccines - this time to those under 65 with pre-existing conditions.

Currently, frontline health care workers, patients and workers in long-term care facilities and Floridians 65 and older can get vaccinated. Patients deemed by a hospital to be “extremely vulnerable” can also get vaccinated.

But DeSantis signed Executive Order 21-47, which takes effect Wednesday, allows police officers, firefighters and school personnel aged 50 and older to get a vaccine.

Additionally, the new order allows doctors, pharmacists and advanced registered nurse practitioners to vaccinate a patient they certify as extremely vulnerable to COVID-19. The Florida Department of Health released that form late Tuesday - but there are no current criteria on what conditions qualify.

“But we’re really putting that in the hands of the medical doctors rather than us arbitrarily picking and choosing," DeSantis said Wednesday. "Because the fact is if we pick certain things, we may leave some out. We could include things that may not - so we think trusting our doctors is the way to go.”

The form just requires doctors to attest that they believe the patient is extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.

Patients with a completed form from a doctor will be eligible to get vaccinated at four newly-opened vaccine sites in Florida run by FEMA, including the Central Florida site at Valencia College West.

Previously, hospitals could vaccinate people under 65 with medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID. Most hospital systems so far have had precious few vaccines, and have been giving them to patients with cancer and on organ transplant waiting lists.

Orlando Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith has been advocating for more people to get the vaccine. He said there has been confusion over whether patients need the newly-released form or if they can get a vaccine with just a note.

"Just try to book the appointment, or in the case of the federal site, walk up with whatever documentation you have proving you are medically vulnerable and we know, based on what's happening on the ground, that there is a very small chance that they would be turned away from getting access to the vaccine," Smith said.

The expansions come as Florida is expecting 175,000 doses of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine - which requires just one dose and does not need to be kept frozen. This order - combined with the incoming Johnson &  Johnson vaccine - could set the stage for more Floridians to get the vaccine at a doctor’s office.