This article was originally published to News Break – follow me there. Note: This information is regularly updated and may be subject to change.
The COVID-19 vaccine is being expanded to include more people nearly everyday. President Joe Biden recently said that the United States is on track to have enough COVID-19 vaccines for all U.S. adults by the end of May 2021.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) continues to add more vaccines to the list and the White House has been working to add more doses to the pool. Here are some tips on how to get the COVID-19 Vaccine in Florida.
First, make sure you are eligible. The eligibility of who is allowed to get the COVID-19 vaccine has been changing almost daily in Florida. The criteria changes too often to post here, but the best place to look is the Florida Department of Health website at floridahealthcovid19.gov/vaccines/vaccine-locator/. This website is regularly updated with a vaccine locator and who is currently eligible. You can find information specific to Tampa and Hillsborough County at hillsboroughcounty.org/residents/public-safety/covid-19-vaccine. Sometimes announcements are made on social media as well, so you will want to follow the Florida Department of Health on Twitter.
Follow local media outlets. No one is working harder to find information on the COVID-19 vaccine than journalists in Florida. I have a list of Tampa Bay media outlets, journalists, and influential people on Twitter that I have curated that could be very useful. Additionally, you can search Twitter for vaccine information by simply typing “Florida COVID-19 vaccine” in the search bar and go to the latest tweets to find tweets from journalists and locals.
Know the vaccine hubs. There are a few major places in Florida that are offering the COVID-19 and they each have a dedicated website where you can book appointments and find out information about who is currently allowed at vaccine sites. Some places like Publix operate in a vaccine pool that will open at a set time to book appointments, while others will remain open until exhausted. These places are subject to change and so is the process to get appointments, but knowing the places to book a vaccine could help save you time and stress. Most places will not take walk-ins due to high demand.
- Publix: publix.com/covid-vaccine
- Wal-Mart: walmart.com/cp/1228302
- Winn-Dixie: winndixie.com/pharmacy/covid-vaccine
- Sam’s Club: samsclub.com/pharmacy
- CVS: cvs.com/immunizations/covid-19-vaccine
Until eligibility is expanded, you will need a doctor’s note. Although the expansion list is changing, there is a requirement currently that one needs a doctor’s note if you do not meet the current age criteria, also called a COVID-19 vaccine letter, with a specific form to get the vaccine that attests vulnerability to the virus. There is no specific health condition for this in Florida, but it is at the discretion of the doctor’s offices unlike other states. Most doctors will be following CDC guidelines for who is at-risk for death or serious complications from COVID-19.
Severe conditions on the Florida Department of Healths’ website include “moderate to severe asthma or chronic lung disease, heart disease, chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis, diabetes, liver disease, autoimmune disease, weakened immune system because of smoking, bone marrow or organ transplantation, cancer treatment, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, or prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications, and severe obesity”.
Proof of Florida residency is required. Earlier in the process, people were reportedly flying to Florida and receiving vaccines despite not living in the state, so now it is required that people prove Florida residence to receive a vaccine. You will need a valid form of government identification and depending on the site there may be other things you need to bring. Always ask the site you are visiting what additional documentation may be needed.
Some places will offer leftover vaccines at the end of the day at their discretion. It’s less frequent now, but some vaccine locations will have leftover vaccines at the end of the day if people failed to show up for appointments. If you’re willing to call around and or go around looking for the vaccine you just might get lucky and find one. In addition, the FEMA vaccine sites have walk-ins accepted unlike the other sites. If they can’t fit you in, they will book you for a future visit. The idea behind the FEMA sites is that they are supposed to be more accessible.
Get more information on the vaccines. Each vaccine maker has a dedicated information hub on CDC And FDA websites for finding information about their vaccine. Here is the link to those sites in case you want to read more about the vaccines and any possible side effects or considerations:
- Pfizer: cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/Pfizer-BioNTech.html
- Moderna: cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/Moderna.html
- Johnson and Johnson: cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/info-by-product/janssen/janssen-faqs.html
Sources: Florida Department of Health