Newly eligible groups can begin scheduling vaccine appointments

Doctor vaccine
Doctor vaccine

The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) in Alachua County has opened vaccine registration for populations Gov. Ron DeSantis declared eligible in an executive order issued Monday.

“Including these additional groups will provide further protection to our community’s most vulnerable,” Paul Myers, Alachua County’s health department administrator, said in a Thursday statement.

Floridians 50 years of age and above who are K-12 school employees, firefighters, or sworn law enforcement officers are now eligible to receive a vaccine. The governor’s order also covers anyone a physician declares extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.

Those who need a physician’s determination can use the form posted on the county health department’s website.

“The completed form will be required to gain access to the appointment only vaccination clinic and must be surrendered to clinic staff before access to the clinic is granted,” the department said in a press release. “Individuals who arrive at their appointment without the form will be turned away.”

In a phone interview Myers attributed the expanded access to the progress in vaccinating the 65-plus community.

“We’re sitting at about 70 percent, and we’re having some difficulty reaching that other 30 percent,” said Myers, who called the numbers encouraging. “We may have reached saturation. I’m basing that on the fact that we’re not getting a whole lot of people signing up when we open registration for that 65-plus population.”

FDOH in Alachua County continues to use its own registration system to schedule appointments online and via phone (352-334-8810). Myers said it is a more nimble system that allows the county to account for the additional population groups now eligible to register.

While some residents continue to mistakenly sign up using the state registration system announced in January, Myers said the county health department is making sure registrants are scheduled.

“I think there is some confusion, but what I want to reinforce is that [the state] list is monitored,” Myers said. “They’re not falling through the cracks.”

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