COVID-19 vaccinations continue in Florida as more people join the waitlists.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has expanded the groups eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Florida. Beginning March 3, eligible residents include:
• Long-term care facility residents and staff;
• Persons 65 years of age and older;
• Health care personnel with direct patient contact;
• K-12 school employees 50 years of age and older;
• Sworn law enforcement officers 50 years of age and older; and,
• Firefighters 50 years of age and older.
In addition, anyone with a medical condition that makes them “extremely vulnerable” to COVID-19 will be allowed to get the vaccine through doctor’s offices and pharmacies, under an executive order DeSantis issued on Feb. 26. The change is part of a new executive order Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued late Friday. Previously, those “extremely vulnerable” persons could only obtain the vaccine at hospitals. The executive order states “physicians licensed under Chapters 458 and 459, Florida Statutes, may also vaccinate persons whom they deem to be extremely vulnerable to COVID-19, and advanced practice registered nurses licensed under Chapter 464, Florida Statutes, and pharmacists licensed under Chapter 465, Florida Statutes, may vaccinate persons determined by a physician to be extremely vulnerable to COVID- 19.”
Vaccine distribution is expected to increase due to the approval of the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine which was approved by the FDA on Sunday. Information on the plan for distribution of the new vaccine had not yet been released, although some health officials have speculated the Johnson & Johnson vaccine might be used in doctors’ offices since the storage requirements are compatible with standard vaccine storage. According to the Johnson & Johnson website, “The vaccine is estimated to remain stable for two years at -4°F (-20°C), and a maximum of three months at routine refrigeration at temperatures of 36-46°F (2 to 8°C). The company will ship the vaccine using the same cold chain technologies it uses today to transport treatments for cancer, immunological disorders and other medicines.”
The Florida Department of Health will work with school districts and law enforcement agencies on vaccination plans.
Okeechobee County Superintendent of Schools Ken Kenworthy said the school district was contacted by the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) last week. They were asked to survey those over 50 wanting access to the Johnson and Johnson vaccination.
“We sent the survey out last Friday morning. Of the 295 individuals ages 50-65, 63% expressed interest in getting the vaccine,” Kenworthy explained. “Previously, we offered the vaccine to those ages 65 and over. We had about 80 in this age group and about 30% choose to get the vaccine. Some of the 80 had already gotten it through the health department during routine vaccination availability.
“Arrangements have not been finalized yet on administration. We are working with the Health Department on a plan and hopefully we can announce very soon. I was told by (FDOE) Chancellor Jacob Oliva that delivery to some districts may begin as early as next week,” he continued. “We are thankful for the expansion of the program and the peace of mind it will give our employees.”
The president of the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers Association praised the decision to vaccinate more educators. In a television interview with WPTV, Justin Katz said “the sooner we can get them vaccinated, the better we will feel.”
He said they should prioritze teachers who are in face-to-face contact with students. “The faster schools reopen and as normal as possible, the better for everybody,” Katz told WPTV. “The quickest route to do that is to try to vaccinate as many employees as possible to reduce the risk of any sort of spread, or bring it home and get sick.”
In January, Palm Beach County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Donald Fennoy wrote to DeSantis urging him to make the vaccine available to all school employees who have contact with students.
In Hendry County, Superintendent of Schools Mike Swindle said they are waiting to hear from the health department with specific instructions for plans to vaccinate school personell over age 50.
Hendry County vaccinations
The Department of Health in Hendry County will provide COVID-19 Vaccines by appointment on March 4 in LaBelle and March 5 in Clewiston. The health department continues to use the state online registration system for pre-registrations. Individuals can pre-register to “get in line” and will be notified with available appointment time. Visit https://myvaccine.fl.gov/ or call 866-201-6745.
Glades County vaccinations
The Department of Health in Glades County will provide COVID-19 Vaccines by appointment on March 7 and March 8. The health department continues to accept pre-registrations by using the state online registration system. Individuals can pre-register to “get in line” and will be notified with available appointment time. Visit https://myvaccine.fl.gov/ or call 866-201-6695.
The Florida Department of Health in Okeechobee County will continue drive-through vaccination pods by appointment only. For vaccination appointments in Okeechobee County, register online at myvaccine.fl.gov or call 866-201-1060. Those who register with the Florida system will be put on a waitlist for the county they select and will be contacted when vaccine is available.
Okeechobee County continues to work closely with Department of Health officials to offer any support and resources necessary to ensure the community needs can be met. The Okeechobee County Public Library has printed copies of the vaccine consent form available for pickup. The library staff has also been trained to answer questions about filling out the form and about the required documentation to prove state residency.
Palm Beach County vaccinations
Palm Beach County is not yet using the state waitlist system because they are still working through the county waitlist that was put together via email before the state system launched. All of the Publix pharmacies in Palm Beach County are offering vaccinations. Appointments can be made online at https://myvaccine.fl.gov/.
A vaccination pod was set up in Pahokee in response to pleas from local officials to bring vaccinations to the rural areas of Palm Beach County. Subject to vaccine availability, residents of “the Glades” who are in a qualifying category can take advantage of vaccination opportunities at Anquan Boldin Stadium. Community members have been calling senior citizens and going door-to-door to help the residents of rural Palm Beach County get vaccinations. For more information, call Lisa Wilson in the office of Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay at 877-930-2206. Guardians of the Glades is also active in getting senior citizens to the vaccination clinics, when vaccine is available.
The Florida Department of Health, Martin County is participating is a statewide registration system. Individuals can pre-register for vaccine appointments and be notified when appointments are available. Pre-register online by visiting myvaccine.fl.gov. For those without internet access, call 1-866-201-7037 for Martin County.
Publix, Walmart, Winn-Dixie and CVS
Many Florida Publix, Walmart, CVS and Winn-Dixie pharmacies are offering COVID-19 vaccinations as vaccine is available. All require appointments, which can only be made online. Do not call the stores. Any Florida resident can make an appointment for any of these sites.
• For Walmart, go online to www.walmart.com/cp/flu-shots-immunizations/1228302
• For Publix, go to www.publix.com/covid-vaccine.
• For CVS, go online to https://www.cvs.com/immunizations/covid-19-vaccine
• For Winn-Dixie, go online to www.winndixie.com/pharmacy/covid-vaccine.
VA hospital helps veterans
Veterans who already qualify to receive care at a VA hospitals may be able to obtain COVID-19 vaccinations through the VA. The VA offers vaccinations for veterans who are over the age of 65; those who are essential frontline workers; and, those who are high-risk due to medical issues. For more information visit www.westpalmbeach.va.gov.
Florida residency required
Gov. Ron DeSantis’s executive order limiting vaccinations to Florida residents allows season residents to qualify if they own or rent a home in Florida part of the year.
The easiest way to show Florida residency is a Florida driver’s license or Florida ID card issued by the driver’s license office.
If an individual does not have a valid Florida driver license or identification card, they may present a copy of two of the following items that show proof of residential address:
• A deed, mortgage, monthly mortgage statement, mortgage payment booklet or residential rental or lease agreement;
• A utility hookup or work order that is not more than 2 months old;
• A utility bill that is not more than 2 months old;
• Mail from a bank or other financial institution, including checking, savings, or investment account statements, that is not more than 2 months old. Mail must show street address. Post office boxes do not qualify.
• Mail from a government agency that is not more than 2 months old;
• Property tax bill (available online on the Property Appraiser’s website).
• One of the above items from the individual’s parent, step-parent, legal guardian or other person with whom the individual resides and a statement from the parent, step-parent, legal guardian or other person with whom the person resides stating that the person does resides with him or her.