COVID-19 vaccine site in Miami-Dade gets strict on state’s eligibility after informally lowering age limit

Adherence to the state’s eligibility criteria for the COVID-19 vaccine appears to change depending on the demand.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – To be the first in line to get his COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, a man parked about 10 p.m. on Tuesday outside of Miami Dade College’s North Campus.

The line to get to the white tents of the Federal Emergency Management Agency-supported and state-run site at 11380 NW 27th Ave., in Westview, snaked out for about a mile.

Ana Amorer, 48, was there early. She stood in line for about four hours only to find out that she doesn’t meet the state’s eligibility.

“Just now I discovered that. It’s really frustrating,” Amorer said.

The temporary vaccination community center is set to distribute about 3,000 shots daily of the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. The satellite sites have access to 500 doses each.

Two satellite sites are open for the last day at 650 NW 5 Ave., in Florida City and at 250 SW 114 Ave., in Sweetwater. The sites will open on Thursday at 1770 NE 162 St. in North Miami Beach and 1401 Westward Dr. in Miami Springs.

Adherence to the state’s eligibility criteria appears to change depending on the demand. When the demand for the shots has been low, the site has expanded access.

Sebastian Davalos, 22, and David Marquez, 28, were among the people who said they had received vaccines at the college site on Tuesday even though they didn’t meet the state’s eligibility.

As of Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis granted first priority to anyone who is 65 years old or older, healthcare personnel, and staff at long-term care facilities. Also eligible: Public school district employees, firefighters, and law enforcement older than 50 years old.

Medically vulnerable patients under 65 years old require a state’s determination of extreme vulnerability form signed by a physician. It’s better to bring this form to the vaccination site than a generic doctor’s note because it will lead to faster processing.

Starting Monday, people who are 60 years old or older will also be eligible in Florida. DeSantis said the next expansion will be for people who are 55 years old or older. Erica Pahl said she is a caretaker for a senior and she was ecstatic about having received the vaccine.

“It’s absolutely life-changing,” Pahl said. “I kind of want to cry talking about it, being able to hug somebody again and go to family gatherings ... it’s a surreal experience.”

According to the Florida Department of Health’s Tuesday report on Miami-Dade County, 216,909 people completed the single or two-dose series. This includes 16,752 who are Black and 484 who are American Indian.

Florida Department of Health data on vaccinations in Miami-Dade County as of March 9. (FDOH)

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About the Authors:

Janine Stanwood joined Local 10 News in February 2004 as an assignment editor. She is now a general assignment reporter. Before moving to South Florida from her Washington home, Janine was the senior legislative correspondent for a United States senator on Capitol Hill.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.