PALM CITY, Fla. — If you’ve had COVID-19 and are trying to get the vaccine, you may not be able to get it at Publix.
Trying to save people time and frustration, 76-year-old Marika Appell of Palm City contacted WPTV.
"I don't see it on TV. I don't see in the news. I don't see it in the newspaper. I don't see it on the consent forms," Appell said.
Appell had COVID in early January, and her 78-year-old husband had it in December.
Living with an immune deficiency, Appell feared she would not handle the virus well.
"I got up. I wasn’t feeling that well. I was in the process of taking my temperature and I passed out," Appell said.
Appell spent four days in the hospital, but said she did not receive any antibody therapy. So based on the consent forms for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, she figured she was fine to get the vaccine.
The couple started logging on to the Publix website every morning like everyone else to secure an appointment, when a friend told her to speak to a pharmacist first.
"You can only get it 90 days after your first symptoms. Well I said to my husband, don’t bother getting up early in the morning. There’s no need," Appell said.
WPTV called a local Publix pharmacy, and the response was the same Appell got.
"That 90-day rule is just because they want to save the vaccines for somebody who has never had it," said infectious disease specialist Dr. Leslie Diaz
Diaz said she understands the need to vaccinate those who have no immunity first, but said it’s not clear how much immunity one has after contracting COVID either.
"Right now there is no, nothing set in stone or any grading system that is commercially available to tell us how good it is, from a scale of one to 10, 10 being the most powerful antibody to combat any exposure," Diaz said.
Under the "Know Before You Go" section of Publix’s COVID vaccine site, the company lists the CDC guideline saying it’s okay to defer vaccine to someone within that 90-day from infection window because there is a low risk of reinfection during that period.
Dr Diaz agrees with that, but in Appell's case, she doesn’t know how easy it will be to get the vaccine when she’s eligible again.
A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County said the agency is still vaccinating people 65 and over who have been infected with the virus as long as they have recovered. In other words, they are not refusing vaccines to anyone who is still within the 90-day window from the initial infection.
The next appointment window for COVID-19 vaccines at Publix opens on Friday at 7 a.m.