Legal vaccine "exception" rule exists

Posted at 10:04 PM, Jan 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-28 23:12:31-05

CAPE CORAL, FLA — Terri Hornik has been navigating a pandemic, with a weakened immune system.

"The medications I'm taking suppress my immune system, which makes it hard to fight off bacterias, viruses, and illnesses," she said.

But she found a ray of hope recently when she read this:

"It says persons deemed to be extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 hospital personnel."

She's reading from executive order 20-315, the basis for our state's current COVID-19 vaccine plan.

It's the last line in the document, and easy to miss, but it says hospital providers can vaccinate people who don't meet the normal criteria if they're shown to be extremely vulnerable to the virus.

"So I called my doctor and he said, 'I'll write you a note,'" said Hornik.

Armed with that note and her medical history, Hornik made an appointment with Publix last week. And she almost made it, but the night before she got a call.

"She confirmed my birth date and she said, 'You can't get it, you're under 65,'" she said, "That's the frustrating part is there's this executive order, but nobody seems to know what it means or is enforcing it."

Hornik says she's called the governor and for a second day in a row, FOX 4 did too.

But no one picked up.

In search of answers, we reached out to local lawyer, Scot Goldberg.

FOX 4: "Should they be able to get a vaccine?"
Scot: "I think so yes."

But, there's more.

"The problem is that there's not enough vaccines for the people that meet the criteria," he said.

And then there's the issue of interpreting that executive order.

"You get governmental agencies or non-profits or private companies who are stepping in and they're having to interpret this order," he said.

Goldberg says his wife is battling cancer and undergoing chemo treatments, and has seen this problem play out firsthand.

"He doctors understand that she's an exception and she can get it but they can't get the vaccines from the state or from the hospitals. Because they're just not enough of them yet," he said.

But he says he's hopeful that over the next two months, people in this "exception group" will have a better shot at getting one.

"We have to try to be patient and it's difficult. Trust me, I know."

FOX 4 has also reached out to NCH, Lee Health, and several local health departments to see what guidance they have gotten on these vaccine exceptions.

A spokesman from NCH said:

NCH continues to administer second doses with the latest allotment of 4,900 doses we obtained from the state on January 14, 2021 following the vaccine administration guidelines outlined in the Governor’s executive order. Because the state did not send us any extra vaccine, all doses in our second vaccine allotment are reserved for just those 4,900 individuals who have already received their first Moderna vaccine at NCH.

We continue to await word from the state as to when we will be getting more vaccine, and we will update our community on the vaccine at NCH as information becomes available.

A spokeswoman from Lee Health said:

At this time the State of Florida is not providing vaccine directly to hospitals; it is only going to Publix stores and the Department of Health in each county.

A spokeswoman from the Lee County Department of Health said:

FDOH Lee is adhering to the Governor’s Executive Order and to watch our website for information when additional priority groups on brought on.

FOX 4 is still waiting on all other responses.