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News about coronavirus in Florida and around the world is constantly emerging. It's hard to stay on top of it all but Health News Florida can help. Our responsibility is to keep you informed, and to help discern what’s important for your family as you make what could be life-saving decisions.

Walmart Mistakenly Offered COVID Vaccine To Medically Vulnerable Floridians Under 65

Walmart said two employees at its Evergreen Park store in the Chicago area have died after testing positive for the coronavirus.
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What initially appeared to be a significant expansion of vaccine access in the state was instead an apparent mistake by Walmart, state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith said.

The population inadvertently offered is not part of Florida's "seniors first" approach. However, Walmart says it will honor appointments made when the expanded access was available.

When Walmart launched its COVID-19 vaccine appointment website Thursday, it included among those eligible in Florida people younger than 65 deemed highly vulnerable to the disease.

Many of in this category had been clamoring for shots but largely unable to get them as Gov. Ron DeSantis stressed a “seniors first” approach.

But what initially appeared to be a significant expansion of vaccine access in the state was instead an apparent mistake by the retail giant, state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, said Thursday evening.

“We’ve just found out that @Walmart mistakenly opened up COVID vaccines to under 65 with co-morbidities and are halting appointments for that group,” he tweeted. “We demanded they honor already booked appointments and I’ve been assured by the state they will be honored.”

“I can only imagine how frustrating this is to the many medically vulnerable people who reached out to our office for help. Thankfully many were able to secure appointments before the change, but we’ll keep fighting for those at-risk under 65 to get vaccines ASAP!”

In launching its portal for booking appointments in a new federal partnership, the company listed “Florida resident deemed to be extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 by hospital providers” as a qualifying category.

DeSantis confirmed this week that he only wanted people in that category to get injections from medical providers — not retailers.

In a statement, Walmart wrote:

“Walmart is a provider in the COVID 19 vaccine program administered by the federal government and the criteria for this program is established by each state's department of health. In Florida, Walmart's scheduling program defaulted to the criteria on the DOH website. In a recent Executive Order, Governor DeSantis outlined that hospital providers may vaccinate persons who they deem to be extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 and all other providers may only vaccinate 65+, healthcare personnel with direct patient contact, long term care residents and staff.

"Walmart is working to align our scheduling system with the specific populations the state has asked us to vaccinate under the federal retail pharmacy partnership. We are honoring all appointments that have been made to date in all categories listed in the Executive Order."

Information from our news partner, The South Florida Sun Sentinel, was used in this report.

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