‘At risk’ people under 65 can now get vaccines at pharmacies, doctor offices in Florida

Michelle Marchante
·3 min read

Anyone under 65 with a medical condition that makes them “extremely vulnerable” to COVID-19 can now get the vaccine in Florida through doctor offices and pharmacies.

The change is part of a new executive order Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued late Friday. Previously, only hospitals were allowed to vaccinate people under 65 who were deemed by a physician to be “extremely vulnerable” to COVID.

Now, anyone under 65 “determined by a physician to be extremely vulnerable” to the disease can get a shot at a doctor’s office or at a pharmacy like Publix or Navarro. You can also still get vaccinated at a hospital.

At-risk people under 65 still can’t get vaccinated at county and state-run sites.

The change comes several weeks after DeSantis said that he didn’t want retailers having to “referee” vaccine appointments for younger people with a preexisting health condition.

On Monday, DeSantis issued another executive order expanding the state’s vaccine eligibility to police officers, firefighters and K-12 school personnel ages 50 and over.

The new order also clarifies that at-risk people under 65 who want to get vaccinated at a doctor’s office or pharmacy will need to present a doctor’s note. The note must state that the person “meets the defined eligibility criteria established by a form prescribed by the Florida Department of Health.”

Florida’s Division of Emergency Management, which is tasked with the state’s vaccine distribution, did not immediately respond to the Miami Herald’s inquiry on which medical conditions are part of the criteria.

Based on the criteria that select South Florida hospitals have used to vaccinate people under 65, it’s likely that some of the eligible medical conditions for pharmacies and doctor offices will include cancer and Down syndrome. Remember, Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine is recommended for people 16 and older. Moderna’s is for 18 and older.

Where can at risk under 65 get the COVID-19 vaccine in South Florida?

Holy Cross Health in Broward County on Monday began offering COVID-19 vaccines to people under 65 who have certain medical conditions that make them at risk for severe COVID complications. Priority will be given to Holy Cross Medical Group patients. For details on how to request an appointment, visit www.holy-cross.com/covidvaccine.

Broward Health expanded its criteria Friday to include at risk individuals 18 and older, though it quickly ran out of slots and has not said when new appointments will become available.

Jackson Health System, Miami-Dade County’s public hospital network, began offering vaccines early last week to people 55 to 64 who have a doctor’s note stating that they are being treated for one of 13 medical conditions.

What about pharmacies?

On Monday, Publix opened vaccination appointments for at risk individuals, healthcare workers with direct patient contact and seniors 65 and older. To check for available slots, visit publix.com/covid-vaccine/florida. The Lakeland-based company did not immediately respond to the Miami Herald’s inquiry on eligibility requirements, including which health conditions are considered eligible and what proof the patient will need to show.

Walmart, which also owns Sam’s Club, told the Miami Herald Monday that it’s still in the process of updating its online scheduling system to match the executive order. The big box retailer did not say when appointments for at-risk individuals are expected to become available. To check for vaccine appointments at Walmart, visit walmart.com/COVIDvaccine. For Sam’s Clubs, visit samsclub.com/covid.

As of Monday, CVS y mas and Navarro Discount Pharmacies have also not updated their vaccine eligibility guidelines.

It’s unclear if Winn-Dixie, Fresco y Más and Harveys supermarket have updated their guidelines. Their websites refer people to the Florida Department of Health’s website for eligibility requirements.