Florida allows COVID-19 vaccines for those under 65 who are deemed medically ‘high-risk’

ORLANDO, Fla. — Under Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order, people under the age of 65 who are extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 can get the vaccine.

But 9 Investigates found that people who fall into that category haven’t been able to sign up.

Two years ago, Charlie Fink received the lifesaving gift of a new kidney, but he now has a medically suppressed immune system, so he doesn’t reject it. This puts him in the “high-risk” category for COVID-19.

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“I’m the weak link in the family,” Fink said. “So, the whole family’s had to be locked down pretty much for almost a year now.”

Like many others, he’s desperate for the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I graduated law school in May and passed the bar in October, and I can’t start working yet, because I just can’t risk being out there quite yet,” Fink said.

Because he’s only 37 years old, he hasn’t been able to sign up for the shot yet.

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But state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith noticed part of the governor’s executive order that says hospital providers also may vaccinate persons who they deem to be extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.

“So, under the executive order, there’s a specific caveat that you don’t have to be 65 if you have a comorbidity,” said Jared Moskowitz, director of the Florida Department of Emergency Management. “While the state government did not define comorbidities, the governor wanted to give that flexibility up to hospitals to make those medical decisions.”

Smith said hospitals need to define comorbidities for patients so they know who is eligible for the vaccine.

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“This is about streamlining clear, consistent communication in as centralized way as possible, so that people understand what the process is.”

Charlie said he’s had no luck trying to sign up through Orlando Health or AdventHealth, where his transplant was done.

“It is frustrating that you know it’s not the same at every hospital, or even every county at this point,” Fink said.

Smith also confirmed with the Department of Emergency Management that if a hospital deems teachers to be at high risk for COVID-19, they would also be able to sign up.