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Changes announced Friday for COVID-19 vaccines makes getting a shot easier for some

Every day there is more information about the eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine as officials want more and more people immunized.
Every day there is more information about the eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine as officials want more and more people immunized.

NORTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, Fla. – One of the newest groups eligible in Florida to receive a COVID-19 vaccine are those 18 or older deemed by a physician to have a high-risk medical condition. Earlier in the week, state planners said that the only form that would be accepted at the FEMA sites where those meeting that requirement would be inoculated required the Department of Health’s Determination of Extreme Vulnerability form.

On a Friday afternoon briefing, a change was announced. While Thursday it was hammered home a doctor’s note on letterhead or prescription from a physician’s pad would not be acceptable — that restriction has now changed and those forms of eligibility will be accepted.

“It’s got to be a prescription or on a doctor’s letterhead signed by the physician that states that you meet the criteria for the medical vulnerability for the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Mike Jachles, chairman of the Florida PIO Deployment team.

Gov. Ron DeSantis expanded COVID-19 vaccine eligibility in Florida last Friday signing an executive order that allowed doctors the authority to be able to determine who is extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.

Under Gov. Ron DeSantis’ addition to the first phase inoculation plans for Floridians, Executive Order 21-46 states that persons deemed by a physician to have a high-risk medical condition will now be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Those eligible recipients will only be accepted at the FEMA sites including the large site at Miami Dade College’s North Campus, which is open every day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and appointments are not required.

FEMA is also supporting two satellite hub vaccination sites. They are located in Sweetwater at Ronseli Park (250 Southwest 114th Avenue) and in Florida City at the Youth Activity Center (650 Northwest 5th Avenue). Both are offering 500 doses daily and are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week.

The state-run sites of Marlins Park and Hard Rock Stadium will not be administering vaccines to those high-risk individuals under the age of 65.

Also new on Friday, state planners said that anyone who needs a second Pfizer dose can come to the FEMA supported sites for that final shot. Planner said you must have your vaccination card that was given when you received the first dose. Walk ups are welcomed.

On Friday, there was a steady flow of people all day at the FEMA site at Miami-Dade College’s North Campus. State planners said they expect even more people to come out for shots this weekend.

Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis said that with a bump up in vaccine supply it is possible that the age required to get a shot could be lowered.

“We are going to do an age-based approach,” DeSantis said. “The next change is going to be lowering the age from 65 down to either 60 or 55. Most likely we will do 60 and it will happen in March.

This comes on what has been a game changing week for the vaccine rollout, between the scale of the federal vaccination sites that came online Wednesday and expansion of eligibility, there are now more shots for more people.

As of 4 p.m. on Friday, however, officials at the large FEMA site said that they had only distributed a little more than half of their 3,000 doses.

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Oliver Gilbert III said: “We need you to get this vaccine in your arm because when you put it in your arm you are not just putting in your arm for yourself, you are putting it in your arm for all of us.”

With the Miami-Dade College North FEMA site not hitting its daily dose capacity in the last two days, local leaders issued a call to action.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava led a procession of community members urging those eligible to get a dose.

Levine Cava announced that they are in the planning stages of launching vaccine outreach teams into neighborhoods near the FEMA supported sites of Florida City and Sweetwater to answer questions and register residents.

“Let’s be clear,” she said. “There are some people who are reluctant and these teams are going to be trained to talk about the facts and help people understand and feel comfortable with the vaccine.”

Find out who is available for a COVID-19 vaccine currently.

About the Authors:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local 10.com.