TAMPA, Fla. – During a news conference at Tampa General Hospital Monday morning, a 31-year-old nurse rolled up her sleeve and became one of the first Floridians to receive a COVID-19 vaccine outside of a clinical trial.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz and officials from Tampa General called the vaccination a milestone moment in the fight against the deadly respiratory illness, which was first reported in the Sunshine State in March.
Health care systems across the country on Monday received the first shipments of the recently authorized vaccine manufactured by Pfizer. At Tampa General Hospital, the delivery arrived via FedEx at 10 a.m. -- 30 minutes ahead of schedule -- and included 19,500 doses.
The governor said about 100,000 doses will be received this week to be used on health care workers who are on the front lines, 60,000 will go to CVS and Walgreens to be administered at long-term care facilities plus another 20,000 is expected Tuesday that will also help residents at long-term care facilities.
Five hospitals systems in Florida were selected to be the first to receive, store and administer the shots: Tampa General, AdventHealth Orlando, Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, UF Health Jacksonville and Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.
AdventHealth Orlando is scheduled to receive its shipment on Tuesday and then begin vaccinating employees on Wednesday.
Alan Harris, the emergency manager for Seminole County, said the doses going to AdventHealth will be spread out.
“The AdventHealth Orlando is for all the campuses, so Seminole County will see some vaccine in the county within the next couple days,” said Harris.
Once the five hospital systems vaccinate their doctors, nurses and other front line workers, they will go to other hospitals in their respective regions and begin vaccinating those employees, according to the governor.
“So we think that we’re getting this at a good time. We think if we get it to the right folks who are the more likely to be hospitalized, that, you know, we can continue to keep those numbers in line... so today we will have shots going in arms. We will have health care workers getting vaccinated much sooner than anybody would have anticipated just six months ago,” DeSantis said.
Harris told News 6, they’re already prepared with equipment to handle dry ice, keeping employees safe while they work to make sure the vaccine keeps.
Once health care workers and long-term care residents receive doses, the next step will be to inoculate the elderly and those with significant preexisting conditions that could cause a case of COVID-19 to become severe.
“We’re trying to prioritize the folks that it can make the most impact for and we’re going to continue to stay on it,” DeSantis said.
As far as the general Florida population, meaning residents who are healthy, under age 65 and don’t work in health care, the governor expects the vaccine to be available for them at some point in February 2021.
“As we get into, potentially, February you could be in a situation where there’s going to be vaccines for people regardless of circumstances or health risks or age. Probably not before that and maybe not quite at that point, but that is very possible so we’re just going to keep communicating, let folks know kind of what we’re doing,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis said that timeline is of course fluid and one potential hiccup is that Pfizer is already having production issues that could jeopardize the shipments slated for the next few weeks. Still, DeSantis is hopeful that Moderna’s vaccine could receive emergency use authorization before by Friday and begin shipping shortly thereafter.
“Now the one thing we’re waiting on, and the initial plan for the Pfizer, we were going to get 179,000 this week, but then we were going to get several 100,000 each the next two weeks of the Pfizer, right now we don’t know. They have kind of dialed it back. I think they’re working through some production issues. So we anticipate the Moderna coming at the beginning of next week, between 300-400,000 doses. We’re hoping that the Pfizer order is fulfilled for the next two weeks beyond what we’re getting today and tomorrow. If we get all of that, as scheduled and then that’s almost probably more than a million doses. If we don’t get the remaining Pfizer, you know, then we’re looking at probably 700 to 750,000 for the month of December,” the governor said.
Johnson & Johnson is also expected to seek authorization in January for another coronavirus vaccine.
Since March, Florida has a reported a cumulative total of 1,125,931 coronavirus cases, 19,866 deaths and 58,127 hospitalizations.