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Health officials prepare for 60+ COVID-19 vaccine eligibility

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Posted at 11:09 PM, Mar 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-09 23:19:16-05

TAMPA, Fla. — While local health officials prepare to open up COVID-19 vaccine appointments to Floridians, there are appointments still available at some vaccination sites for those already eligible.

Generally, people may find options through pharmacies, county-run sites, state-run sites and federally supported sites in Hillsborough County.

“There’s a lot of information, so many different things, and again, it’s very very confusing and we’re going to do our best to make sure we’re letting everybody know what their options are,” said Kevin Watler, the public information officer for the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County.

RELATED: Florida lowering COVID-19 vaccine eligibility age to 60+ starting March 15

He said the federal run site has the capacity and accepts walk-ups.

Right now, those 65 and older, health care workers with patient contact, K-12 school employees 50 and older, law enforcement 50 and older and firefighters 50 and older are eligible under the state.

The federally supported site also accepts school workers of any age, those a physician considers extremely vulnerable with a DOH form or a doctor’s note with similar information and caretakers, if they are there with the person they provide care to or can provide proof.

Watler said there is also availability at county-run sites at last check, specifically Vance Vogel Sports Complex followed by the Ed Radice Sports Complex (which also accepts K-12 employees). Appointments are required. Those with questions on eligibility can email dohhillsboroughphp@flhealth.gov.

“We are certainly looking at expanding our operations and turning on additional sites in the very near future. So keep an eye out for that. We are getting more and more vaccines and as we get more and more vaccines we’re able to offer more opportunities for folks to get vaccinated which is very exciting,” he said.

Pinellas County says it too has plenty of appointments still available this week. People can register through the patient portal or by calling 844-770-8548. Those who are 60 years and older will be able to schedule appointments starting Monday, though anyone can currently make an account.

An executive order takes effect Monday, expanding eligibility to those 60-64 years old.

People in that group can preregister with the statewide preregistration system for state-run sites. Those who already pre-registered ages 60-64 will be proactively contacted by the state to schedule an appointment when they become available in their area. The call center will start making calls to these eligible populations starting Wednesday, according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

ABC Action News also checked in with county health officials.

Manatee County said it's aiming to open registration for newly eligible patients this week so they can be contacted beginning next week.

The Florida Department of Health in Pasco County said residents 60-64 will be eligible to sign up with CDR Maguire for appointments on Sunday at 2 pm.

The Florida Department of Health in Polk County said people can register now through its registration portal. They can also call (863) 298-7500 for help. It says currently appointments are being scheduled for next week for those registered in the portal that is included in the newest executive order.

Another option is to schedule a vaccine through pharmacies.

ABC Action News also checked in with them on when those 60-64 years old may be able to register.

Publix has not yet released details.

Walmart said as patient eligibility requirements for COVID-19 vaccines expand, it will update its internal processes and online scheduling system to reflect them quickly as possible.

Southeastern Grocers, the parent company of Winn-Dixie, Fresco y Más and Harveys Supermarket said it’s working with the state to implement changes.

“Southeastern Grocers is committed to the safe and equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to eligible customers, and we are encouraged to see the eligibility list continue to expand to include all individuals 60 years of age and older. We are working with the State of Florida and the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) to determine best practices and implement changes to our current system to serve all eligible customers in this newly expanded age group. We expect to have these changes implemented into our process beginning early next week, and we ask our customers to be patient while we adjust to the evolving eligibility criteria. We understand the sense of urgency, as well as the importance of proper protocols and detailed implementation, and we're working hard with our partners to attain that balance,” Kaley Shaffer, director of public relations and community for Southeastern Grocers stated.