ORLANDO, Fla. – Thousands of AdventHealth employees were part of a historic first for the coronavirus pandemic Wednesday morning.
Around 20,000 frontline workers signed up to receive a dose of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, with healthcare professionals who work in intensive care and COVID-19 units to be some of the first in line, according to the hospital system.
Distribution began early Wednesday, with the initial shipment lasting through next Tuesday, said Dr. Neil Finkler, chief medical officer for AdventHealth Central Florida Division. Finkler added that the hospital system is not requiring employees to get the vaccine, saying it is purely voluntary.
These workers are some of the first people to receive the experimental coronavirus vaccine in the nation, in the state and in the Central Florida region.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday that the next step will be rolling out vaccinations among the state’s long-term care facilities. DeSantis added it’s all part of the state’s plan to protect Florida’s most vulnerable and at-risk population. Those efforts are also set to begin as early as Wednesday.
“It’s very, very significant that we provide vaccinations to anyone at a nursing home who wants it. Obviously, they are the most at risk from most infections,” DeSantis said.
Florida’s governor also announced Tuesday there is a delay in hundreds of thousands of doses of the Pfizer vaccine stemming from production issues.
Not phased by the delay, DeSantis said the Food and Drug Administration was set to green-light Moderna Inc.’s coronavirus vaccine later this week. The first batch of the company’s vaccine could begin heading to Florida as soon as this weekend, allowing wider distribution of the medicine to hospitals across the state.
The FDA gave an initial and promising review of Moderna’s vaccine Monday, saying it was 94.1% effective against coronavirus.
By the end of December, Florida could be distributing two coronavirus vaccines.
Florida Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz said in an exclusive interview with News 6 that the promise of a widely distributed vaccine could be the end to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moskowitz is in charge of vaccine distribution across Florida.
[WATCH BELOW: Mass vaccination facilities across Florida are coming]
Moskowitz said the general public will likely gain access to the coronavirus vaccine in early spring.
“I think that’s a March-April timeline,” Moskowitz said. “People talk about summer, but I think it could happen before summer. One, because production is going to ramp up, and two, I don’t know that we’re going to see in the very beginning months a significant acceptance of the vaccine.”
Moskowitz and his team are focusing on the distribution and acceptance of the vaccine, hoping a public awareness campaign and messaging could convince Floridians to get the shot and build protection against the virus.
As Moskowitz is ironing out plans for mass vaccination facilities across the state and public distribution, Florida continues to report thousands of new cases daily.
On Wednesday, Florida reported 11,355 new COVID-19 infections. The state has seen 1,155,335 cases since March. More than 20,400 people have died due to the virus since the start of the pandemic.
Moskowitz emphasized Floridians must continue to socially distance, wear masks and wash hands until everyone has access to the vaccine.
[READ YESTERDAY’S REPORT: Florida reports more than 9,400 new COVID-19 cases as more vaccine shipments arrive]
Below is a breakdown of cases, recent deaths, hospitalizations and Florida’s positivity rate reported by the state on Dec. 16:
The Florida Department of Health reported 11,344 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the state’s overall total to 1,155,335 cases since March.
Editor’s note: Along with the resources previously utilized by News 6 (state and county-by-county data), as of Dec. 7, WKMG has added state data pulled from the Florida Department of Health’s Florida COVID19 State Testing Totals. This new dataset includes the number of people tested the day prior, which is the number public health officials use to calculate the state’s daily positivity rate.
Florida reported 125 new virus deaths Wednesday. This means at least 20,490 people have died in relation to coronavirus across the state, including 286 non-residents who died in Florida.
As of Wednesday afternoon, there are currently 5,156 people with the virus hospitalized in Florida, according to the state Agency for Health Care Administration, an increase by about 150 patients within 24 hours.
Since March, 58,969 people have been hospitalized in Florida after complications from the coronavirus. That number includes the 357 people have been recently hospitalized due to the virus, according to the health department’s report.
The positivity rate for the 122,187 tests reported Wednesday was 9.28%. This statistic is the number of people who tested positive for the first time based on test results reported to the state Tuesday.
See COVID-19 data for the Central Florida region below:
|County||Cases||New cases||Hospitalizations||New Hospitalizations||Deaths||New deaths|