The largest vaccination campaign in U.S. history is underway with health workers on the front lines of COVID-19 treatment getting first dibs. The vials are being delivered to five health care centers in Florida.
A 31-year-old nurse at Tampa General Hospital became the first Floridian to receive the Covid-19 vaccine. The vaccination was held during a news conference at the hospital, with Gov. Ron DeSantis looking on.
“These vaccines have already been administered in Great Britain and Canada; they’re now going to be administered here in the United States,” the governor said. “We will have shots going in arms much sooner than anybody would have anticipated just six months ago.”
Nationwide, 2.9 million doses of the FDA-approved Pfizer vaccine are estimated to arrive at health care facilities and nursing homes this week – roughly half the initial 6.4 million doses from Pfizer. The Food and Drug Administration is holding back that half for the second round of the two-shot protocol.
Tampa General is among five health care centers that will form the distribution hub in Florida.
“They’ve also been received at Broward Memorial and UF-Shands in Jacksonville; [Tuesday], Jackson Memorial in Miami will receive its shipment, as well as Advent Health in Orlando,” DeSantis said. “What will have is almost 100,000 doses for these five hospital systems.”
One of the reasons for setting up the five select systems in Florida in this first round, says DeSantis, is to avoid massive numbers of hospitals, which he claims would exacerbate any problems that may crop up.
“This is kind of a beta test; they wanted to run it through, make sure things were running smoothly, which – knock on wood – they have so far,” said the governor. “And then as we get into the next week’s distribution, you’ll start to see it go.”
Two other vaccines await federal approval. First up is Moderna, which like Pfizer requires deep freeze storage and two doses. FDA Commissioner Steven Hahn, says the governor, plans to handle Moderna the same as Pfizer.
“The advisory committee will meet on Thursday to discuss the issues with Moderna; we anticipate a favorable recommendation for that,” said DeSantis. “And then, FDA will work — hopefully through the night — to get the EUA [Emergency UseAuthorization] issued on Friday of this week.”
And on the horizon is the vaccine from Johnson and Johnson, which requires only one dose and is kept under normal refrigeration.
Along with the 100,000 doses of the vaccine for the five hospitals, CVS and Walgreens pharmacies in the state will also receive 60,000 doses to distribute at long-term care facilities, and the state will get 20,000 to administer at care facilities as well.
“It really is a miracle to be here today, helping administer vaccines less than a year of dealing with this pandemic,” said Jared Moskowitz, state emergency management director.
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) December 14, 2020
“It is a tribute to the front-line health care workers, who are going to be the first recipients of the vaccine – the heroes dealing with this every single day,” Moskowitz said. “It’s a bittersweet moment for families who have lost loved ones to the pandemic, or families who have folks in hospitals and have not been able to visit them.”
But Moskowitz cautions that this is not the end, that there’s still a long way to go.
“Obviously, it’s going to take a little bit to get this out; we will continue to be aggressive,” said Moskowitz. “Folks continue to do mitigation measures as we get through this. We’re hoping that as that supply comes, we will see a significant robust effort between ourselves and the hospitals and the local partners at our counties.”
As the vaccine doses begin rolling in, local officials are finalizing their distribution plans. Santa Rosa County is conducting a survey on COVID-19. Public Safety Director Brad Baker says they want to get an idea of how many residents are interested in being vaccinated.
“In the brief time the survey’s been out – we have just over 500 – about 53% say, ‘Yeah, we’ll definitely get it’ and another 12.5% say, ‘Yeah, we’ll probably get it,’ that tells us we can play for 65-70% of the population getting it,” Baker said.
That in turn will enable the county to prepare to serve the 180,000 Santa Rosa residents.
“And that allows us to run some figures and understand – what’s the length of time we need to have the point of distribution open, how many can we expect to get through in a day,” said Baker. “And then from there we’re really just concerned about those who are not interested in getting it and why are they not.”
Baker says the rollout of the vaccine doesn’t mean we can throw away our face coverings and put an end to social distancing.
“It’s going to take a little bit of time to get that population vaccinated,” Baker said. “So we’re going to see if we can continue doing the practices that we’re doing now. Wearing masks, social distancing, limiting gatherings. That’s really about our elderly, those with heart conditions, diabetes, the high-risk population.”
“Relieved” is how one nurse put it, after getting vaccinated early Monday. The injections begin an effort to try and defeat the coronavirus, which has claimed nearly 300 thousand American lives. How well these initial vaccinations go will help reassure a wary public when it’s their turn sometime next year.