Confusion over ‘extremely vulnerable’ eligibility for COVID-19 vaccine

The latest executive order signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis allows people under 65 years of age and ‘extremely vulnerable’ to COVID-19 to get the vaccine. However, many are confused over what ‘extremely vulnerable’ means.

“Those who are vulnerable are falling through the cracks because the goalpost keeps moving as far as what needs to be done to secure a vaccine which is frustrating,” said Doug Veal.

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Veal is 46 years old and said his doctors consider him “extremely vulnerable.” He is immunocompromised with several underlying health conditions that put him at high risk for a severe case of COVID-19 again. Veal spent 43 days in the hospital with COVID-19 in November. He was on a ventilator.

“I’m going to continue to be susceptible to getting COVID again and this time, I may not be as lucky and may not make it off the ventilator if it happens again. It’s very scary because I’ve already come so close to death the first time, I want to do everything in my power to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Veal said.

When the governor signed an executive order Friday opening up vaccine eligibility to those under 65 who are deemed extremely vulnerable, Veal was excited.

Veal said his doctor signed a note stating his conditions and why he is considered “extremely vulnerable,” but things changed Monday, when DeSantis signed a new order. Stating those who are considered extremely vulnerable would need a “statement that meets the defined eligibility criteria established by a form prescribed by the Florida Department of Health.”


That form has not been created yet.

“I think that’s the most frustrating part. To have your doctor say you need to be vaccinated for your health and to save your life, and not get that opportunity,” Veal said.

News 6 reached out to the Department of Health and have not heard back on when that form will be available.

Meantime, new FEMA sites are popping up across the state, offering more vaccines like the location at Valencia College in Orange County.

Public Safety Director Danny Banks said those under 65 who are high risk should hold off on showing up to a vaccination site unless they’ve secured an appointment.

“It’s been confusing, the messaging about who is eligible and what their expectation should be once they get to the site,” Banks said. “I would pause to just go and try to get a shot at a site, unless you know you were going to get an opportunity through an appointment to get that vaccine that day. I’d hate to see people show up and wait for hours only to be turned away.”


Veal said he has a doctor’s note and an appointment. He’ll be driving for hours from Lakeland in hopes to get the vaccine at AdventHealth in Daytona Beach later this week.

“There’s a possibility that because of this executive order, we can drive all the way to Daytona Beach and I’m not able to get vaccinated. It’s caused a lot of stress,” Veal said.

Veal said he hopes there will be some clarity on who is eligible to get the vaccine and the process to get an appointment, so people like him can get the potentially life-saving vaccine sooner than later.

The order has thrown local pharmacies for a loop. News 6reached out to CVS to see if those extremely vulnerable will be able to get the vaccine right now with a doctor’s note.

A spokesperson sent a statement:

“We’re working closesly with the state and we’ll develop a process that ensures that patients have access to vaccines in line with the Governor’s new executive order.”


Southeastern Grocers, the company that manages Winn-Dixie, sent this statement in response to the new executive order:

“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 expand. We are working with the State of Florida and the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) to understand best practices and implement changes to our current system to serve all eligible customers in this newly added group. We will be progressively adapting our process to get vaccines to those with a qualified need without creating an excessive burden of verification on our pharmacy teams in stores. We expect to have these changes implemented into our process within the 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.”


Walmart also sent a 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.”

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