People under 65 eligible for COVID-19 vaccine, still facing roadblocks

Posted at 6:27 PM, Mar 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-02 18:27:21-05

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Heidi Basik of Fort Myers has lupus. It sends her to chemotherapy once a month. And, because she’s not 65 years old yet, she didn’t qualify for a COVID-19 vaccine in Florida.

But, just a few days ago, that changed for people like her.

“We have been largely holding our breath, and on Friday, I felt like I could let a little bit of that air out,” she said.

That’s when Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order allowing vulnerable people under age 65 to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

Great news for Basik whose road to a vaccine has been long. Fox 4’s Rochelle Alleyne first shared Basik’s story in January, when she asked the governor to make this exception. Now, she still has a way to go.

“Just because the executive order was signed, doesn’t mean all the people like me automatically line up and get the vaccine,”s she said.

While the executive order allows pharmacies and doctor’s offices to provide the shot to people like Basik, it doesn’t require county and state-run vaccination sites to accommodate her.

She says Publix has updated their website with the new guidelines, but she’s still struggling to secure a spot. Other companies like Walmart and Walgreens haven’t updated their sites yet.

“So, if I - and I did, go on any of the other ones, all of the questions are, are you over 65, are you a medical provider, are you a first responder? And when I can’t check any of those, I’m kicked out of the system,” said Basik.

Walgreens said they’re focused on vaccinating people at long-term care facilities in Florida, and don’t offer COVID-19 vaccines in their Florida pharmacies.

Walmart sent the following statement:

This weekend Governor DeSantis issued an Executive Order broadening the eligibility criteria. We are in the process of updating our internal processes and the scheduling system to reflect new eligibility.

Basik says the governor’s executive order is a start.

“We are very, very close to what we consider a finish line, which his really probably a starting line for us,” she said.

If you’re under 65, and you are able to register for a vaccine, you have to bring a doctors note to the pharmacy proving you’re extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.

Lee Health and NCH say they’ve been vaccinated at-risk patients under the age of 65 for several weeks now. Lee Health says don’t reach out to them, since they’re making their way down the list of patients who qualify as they get more doses.

NCH also shared the following information:

The comorbidities that determine high risk are based on CDC recommendations. They can be found here: []. Considerations for the under 65 age group with extreme vulnerabilities include one of the following conditions: Chronic kidney disease , Diabetes, Immunosuppressive disease or currently receiving immunosuppressive treatment , significant cardiovascular disease/CHF/CAD, and Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease/asthma/chronic respiratory disease.