State rep pushes to end use of determination of vulnerability form for COVID-19 vaccines

ORLANDO, Fla. — A Florida State Representative is calling for the governor to do away with a form many currently must have to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Rep. Carlos Smith says there’s too much red tape standing in the way of what’s needed to protect the community.

READ: Here’s the form medically vulnerable Floridians need to fill out to get a vaccine

Smith says the requirement has also resulted in a financial disparity between those who can get the shot and those who can’t.

READ: Health leaders expect coronavirus-related deaths to continue to decline

Floridians most at-risk of dying if they contract COVID-19 can now be vaccinated anywhere with an open appointment, but a sheet of paper is standing in the way of protection many have been waiting a year to receive.

“There should be really just an honor system at this point on underlying medical conditions that make people vulnerable to COVID-19,” Rep. Smith says.

Most sites require a form of identification, but then patients claiming to be medically vulnerable will be asked to present a Florida Department Health “Determination of Extreme Vulnerability” form signed by a doctor.

In the past, a doctor’s note alone was proof enough.

“It’s just causing a lot of frustration and certainly promoting more inequity, unfortunately, in access to the vaccine,” Rep. Smith says.

READ: Lawmakers grill company behind Florida’s failed unemployment system

According to Smith, the first problem with a form that needs a doctor’s signature is that millions of people in Florida don’t have insurance or a primary care physician.

“That’s a concern,” Orange County Health Officer Raul Pino says. “We have reached out to the state to look for guidance on what they want, how they want to approach this issue.”

Pino says he believes the governor’s order is meant for “extremely vulnerable people” who are already under a doctor’s care.

“Not that I’m taking away from a controlled diabetes or a controlled high blood pressure, but this is more complicated than that,” Pino says.

Rep. Smith says the state intentionally made the form vague so a doctor or hospital could decide who needs the shot.

READ: Some substitute teachers are having a difficult time getting their COVID-19 vaccine. Here’s why

However, he says that’s led to even more inequities throughout the state, because many doctors are now charging patients for an office or tele-medicine visit before they sign off on the form.

“At this point we may need to be looking at this as some sort of COVID scam of sorts,” Rep. Smith says. “I believe that during a state of emergency like we’re in, we should not have doctors trying to profit.”