SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Some health care workers not employed or affiliated by hospital systems have been told they can’t get the coronavirus vaccine.
According to Ann Scott, an at-home health care nurse who works for a private company headquartered in Alabama but treats patients in Central Florida, she was told by both the state and the Orange County health department that she was not eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, though Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order clearly names health care workers as a priority.
“They explained, ‘If you don’t work for a hospital system or if you aren’t a first responder or 65 plus, you can’t get the vaccine until Phase 1,’” Scott said. “It’s really frustrating, I’m kind of at a lost. It’s shocking to me people who are direct health care workers, working with one of the most vulnerable populations, that there’s not some kind of systems in place.”
As it’s set up right now, hospital systems are vaccinating their own employees and affiliates. On Wednesday, DeSantis said more than 367,000 vaccines have been received to vaccinate hospital staff across the state. However, there is confusion as to where and when those health care workers outside of the hospital systems can be vaccinated.
“There is still confusion, I think there is still confusion in Tallahassee,” Seminole County Emergency Director Alan Harris said.
Last week, the Seminole County Department of Health was given 8,100 vaccinations to administer to those 65 and older and non-hospital health care workers, but Harris said they got a call from the state to not incorporate health care workers. He then said the guidance changed two more times on Wednesday.
“We saw other counties post announcements they were going to do non-hospital health care workers and our understanding (was) we weren’t supposed to be doing that,” Harris said. “The direction we got this morning was yes you need to go ahead and do that - then a later conference call was contrary. It’s so confusing right now.”
However, because other counties are moving forward, Seminole County announced Wednesday that it is expanding its criteria to include non-hospital health care workers in the vaccination process.
The question is: How far does the expansion go?
For Winter Park dentist Dr. Jugnu Dhamija, he has been on the phone with the state Department of Health, several local counties and even AdventHealth, also with no answers.
“We are in close proximity to the patient, as close as you can get to a person’s mouth, we are at a higher risk of getting this COVID-19,” Dhamija said. “We did get lost in the definition process somehow, we should have had a plan laid out for us as to when we can get a vaccination.”
In Seminole County, Harris said there still is no clear directive from the state on what defines a non-hospital health care worker so he encourages any health care worker to go ahead and book an appointment when they become available again.
“As of today, if any appointment becomes available, book them,” Harris said. “As tickets become available, we won’t prevent them, they have to show proof but we won’t prevent them.”
At Seminole County, proof of health care employment will be required upon check-in at the vaccine site for anyone under age 65 in order to receive the vaccine. A government-issued ID should match the proof of employment. Proof of employment can include a work identification badge or paystub from health care employer.