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Walmart Gave COVID-19 Vaccine Slots to at-risk Florida Residents

Florida is allowing people 65 and older, healthcare workers with direct patient contact and long-term care facility residents and staff to get vaccinated. But Walmart also listed an option for Florida residents "deemed to be extremely vulnerable to COVID-19.

by JiMichelle Marchante and Devoun Cetoute, The Miami Herald / February 12, 2021
TNS
(TNS) - Florida residents under 65 with health conditions that make them at risk for severe COVID complications were given the option to book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment through Walmart this week.
 
The move went against Gov. Ron DeSantis' executive order, which gives only hospital providers the option to vaccinate anyone it considers "to be extremely vulnerable to COVID-19," regardless of age.
 
Now the big-box retailer says it made a mistake. But the company apparently plans to honor those appointments, with vaccinations for seniors and healthcare providers set to begin Friday.
 
Walmart told the Miami Herald in an email late Thursday that the mix-up happened because its online scheduling program "defaulted to the criteria" listed on the Florida Department of Health's website. Florida is currently allowing people 65 and older, healthcare workers with direct patient contact and long-term care facility residents and staff to get vaccinated.
 
The problem is that Walmart also listed an option for Florida residents "deemed to be extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 by hospital providers" in its online appointment scheduler.
 
However, because of DeSantis' executive order, people under 65 with "at risk" health conditions should not be vaccinated at Walmart, said Samantha Bequer, a spokeswoman for the Florida Division of Emergency Management, which is tasked with the state's vaccine distribution plan.
 
Because of the mix-up, "we encourage Walmart to work with local hospital providers regarding this matter," Bequer told the Miami Herald in an email.
 
So, what happens now?
 
Walmart spokeswoman Rebecca Thomason told the Miami Herald in an email late Thursday: "We are honoring all appointments that have been made to date in all categories listed in the Executive Order."
 
It's unclear how many appointments Walmart mistakenly gave out and Thomason declined to give a figure. She also did not respond to an email requesting clarification on whether Walmart's commitment to honor "all appointments" also included those under 65 with "at risk" conditions.
 
But Orlando state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith told the Orlando Sentinel he was assured by Jared Moskowtiz, Florida's emergency management director, that all appointments, including those made in error, would be honored.
 
Walmart also says it's now working to align its scheduling system with "the specific populations the state has asked us to vaccinate under the federal retail pharmacy partnership."
 
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