Extremely vulnerable residents under 65 struggling to obtain COVID-19 vaccine

Just days after breast cancer patient Nicole Campbell shared her story with Channel 9, her doctor got the good news: 500 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were available from the Sumter County Health Department.

The only downside is that the vaccine is earmarked for Sumter County residents only, and Campbell lives in Lake County.

“It shouldn’t depend on where I live, as somebody going through chemotherapy, I should be able to get a vaccination,” Campbell said.

READ: Florida Walmart stores mistakenly make COVID-19 vaccine appointments for extremely vulnerable people under 65

Walmart closed off registration to extremely vulnerable residents under 65 after realizing the state’s policy prevented them from vaccinating those people.

The governor’s executive order only allows hospital providers to give young, medically vulnerable people the shot.

Next week, the state confirmed just 100 more doses are going to hospitals for that purpose, so there will be 28,600 total. For another week, that’s about the same amount of doses but to even more hospitals, now totaling 35.

READ: Florida ranks 39th in the country for COVID-19 vaccine distribution

In most cases, hospitals statewide are only inviting their own vulnerable patients to get vaccinated.

Residents can’t even reserve a spot in line on the state’s pre-registration site. It says you can, but never once are you asked about your comorbidities and then at the end, you’re told spots are only for people 65 years and older.

Mary Freeman, 61, knows she’s not in the best of health with cardiac and pulmonary sarcoidosis, and pulmonary arterial hypertension.

READ: Florida reports 7,600 new COVID-19 cases as the state’s virus-related death toll tops 29,000

Those conditions, according to the CDC, put her at a higher risk of getting severe COVID-19.

“I’ve been double-masking since day one … because I’ve been so scared,” Freeman said.

Freeman had all but given up, but then she tried to use the state’s pre-registration site.

READ: Parts of Central Florida see economic boom during pandemic as other areas go bust

She went through the “whole process,” which did not ask her for any details about her comorbidities.

But in the end, she was unsuccessful.

“It comes up and says you’re not eligible because you don’t meet the requirement of 65 and older,” Freeman said.

There was no mention of creating a separate special list for people like her when the state would start making appointments for them.

“We’re only doing people with comorbidities, who are extremely vulnerable at hospitals. But at some point in time, obviously, that’ll expand beyond hospitals,” said Jared Moskowitz, Florida director of Emergency Management. “But obviously, at our state sites, right now, we’re not doing anybody with comorbidities.”

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.