Clinics offering COVID-19 boosters have launched in FL with few rules to ‘minimize the barriers’

By: - September 30, 2021 5:09 pm

COVID-19 vaccines. Credit: Marko Geber/Getty Images

With COVID-19 booster shots now available to many groups such as those 18 and older with underlying medical conditions, vaccination clinics across Florida are requiring proof of the first series of Pfizer shots but they don’t have to bring any doctor’s note or medical records to confirm any health conditions.

For now, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  has recommended booster shots for people in several categories, including residents 65 and older, individuals with underlying medical conditions and workers who are at an increased risk of infection, such as healthcare workers, teachers, and others.

This week, vaccination sites started offering shots in various locations, including college campuses and county health departments. For instance, both Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) and Florida State University (FSU) on Thursday had vaccine clinics offering Pfizer booster doses to those eligible.

But those colleges’ vaccine sites are only requiring forms for people to fill out attesting they are immunocompromised and proof of vaccination history showing they’d received Pfizer doses – raising concerns that people who aren’t eligible may have access to third doses because of less restrictions.

Doctors, pharmacies and clinics across the nation have been allowing patients to get third shots, without requiring proof of eligibility, as reported by The Wall Street Journal. The Biden administration had pushed to get more shots in arms to combat rising cases and the more transmissible Delta variant but sought approval from federal health authorities.

Last week, advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended a third shot for certain individuals at least six months after the completion of two doses of Pfizer vaccines, as some health experts pointed to waning effectiveness of the vaccines over time.

FAMU’s site that launched Wednesday hasn’t seen many visitors, said Tanya Tatum, director of the Student Health Services. She said in a phone conversation that eligible individuals seeking a third shot must complete a form “saying they meet certain criteria.”

“We’re not requiring proof [of health conditions],” Tatum said. “The whole idea at the beginning was to minimize the barriers. …We haven’t pushed it a lot,” though the site just opened, Tatum added.

At FSU, proof of vaccination history is a requirement for the boosters but not medical records showing any underlying health conditions, according to spokeswoman Amy Farnum-Patronis. “Students, faculty, and staff that meet the criteria above must bring documentation of their completed Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination series,” she said in an email to the Phoenix.

Forms that are accepted as documentation of COVID shots include a “CDC COVID-19 vaccination card, Florida SHOTS record, or other state or international vaccination records,” Farnum-Patronis said, adding that appointments aren’t required.

The Florida Department of Health has also begun administering booster shots through county health departments, such as Hillsborough and Marion counties.

Through the Hillsborough County health department, several sites offering booster shots in Tampa are available to those who have gotten Pfizer shots, said spokesman Kevin Watler. “There are also plans to open an additional location next week,” Watler said.

But the state health department isn’t requiring immunocompromised people to provide any documentation confirming health conditions, Watler said in an email to the Phoenix. “Only those who received Pfizer can receive a booster/third shot at this time,” he said.

Immunocompromised individuals may consult with their doctors whether they should get a third shot, according to a press release from the Marion health department. But they “can self-attest that they are immunocompromised and receive the additional dose wherever vaccines are offered” to ensure there are no additional barriers to access for this vulnerable population” receiving an additional dose.

Meanwhile, Florida Congressman Charlie Crist received his COVID booster shot on earlier this week, with a picture of the 2022 gubernatorial candidate wearing a mask posted on his Twitter page.

“Congressman Crist received a 3rd COVID-19 vaccine dose as part of a larger House effort to ensure continuity of government and the protection and safety of congressional staff and visitors,” Chloe Kessock, Crist’s press secretary, said in an email to the Phoenix.

“He also wishes to raise awareness of the wide availability, accessibility, safety, and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine to Floridians who may not have made the choice to get vaccinated, yet.”

This story includes new information from U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, who also is a gubernatorial candidate for 2022.

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.