JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With the arrival of 10,000 additional doses of COVID-19 vaccine at UF Health Jacksonville on Tuesday, 100 primary care health workers were expected to receive their first injections.
Hospital officials said employees at highest risk were next for the vaccinations. From there, more staff will be dosed until all frontline staff have been vaccinated.
The vaccinations started again at 7 a.m. on Tuesday and were expected to continue into the afternoon. They will then continue on Wednesday.
“I think things are going extremely well this morning,” UF Health Division Director Jeanne Bradshaw said on Tuesday. “Everything is going as planned. We have not had any response from the vaccinations. Everyone was very excited to get it. “
Each person who got the shot had to be followed for about 15 minutes to make sure they had no response. They got a pager, similar to what you might see in a restaurant. When it went off, they were quickly checked out. From there they were allowed to leave the room.
Flight Nurse Tony Hayes was excited to roll up his sleeve.
“It is an honor that UF Health was one of five Florida hospitals to do this. We have been preparing for this for quite some time. However, I think it is important. I feel safe getting this, ”Hayes said. “I trust the people here at UF Health Jacksonville, especially the doctors. They are some of the smartest people I know. I really think they want the best for us. “
Dr. Leigh Neumayer, a physician with the UF Health Department of Surgery, also rolled up her sleeve. She sees a lot of people with COVID-19. In fact, she has had to cancel surgeries after patients tested positive just before going under the knife. She said it was an emotional journey and that she has seen the tragic side of COVID-19.
“To help these people who unfortunately die in solitude. Fortunately, we have gotten better and better at treatment because we have practiced a lot on it. But this is still a very deadly disease. People need to keep taking precautions, ”said Neumayer. “It’s very discouraging for those of us who are exposing ourselves, but more importantly to take care of these patients, to get other people to say it’s a fraud or it’s not real. I would like them to spend a day with me. I can show them the X-rays. “
Neumayer said people should keep wearing masks everywhere they go.
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Health workers called the arrival of the vaccine a historic event, not only in their personal story but also in the fight to defeat the coronavirus and restore normalcy in the world.
“We will hopefully be in such a better position as a state and as a country in the fight against this pandemic, so much better than we were even yesterday,” said Justin Senior, CEO of Safety Net Hospital Alliance, which includes UF Health and Ascension St. Vincent’s, and former secretary of Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, said Monday.
Baptist Health System expects to begin vaccinating its employees next week.
Federal officials say the vaccine’s administration will continue to be spread. Once health care and frontline workers are ready, residents of long-term care facilities will follow, followed by people 65 and older.
“Between long-term care facilities and the over-65s, they account for more than 80% and nearly 90% of fatalities in the state of Florida,” said Senior. “And Florida is not alone in that.”
It is not yet known which demographics will be eligible for the next rounds. Dr. Kevin Duane, owner of Panama Pharmacy, said he believes the state of Florida is following a good vaccine distribution plan.
“They have to protect the most vulnerable first, and that’s not the general public. The most vulnerable are people most of us don’t see. They are the primary health care workers in the emergency departments and ICUs across the state, ”said Duane.
For naysayers who question the vaccine’s effectiveness, Duane said those beliefs stem from bad information.
“The vaccine itself is new, but the technology behind it is not. We’ve been using the technology there for quite some time in other studies and in another disease, like the Zika virus, ”he said.
Because the Pfizer injection requires two rounds, the people who now receive the vaccines will get a second injection in about three weeks.
“I think the hardest part is seeing all the suffering and work that all our people are doing,” said Berni Belgado, pharmacy director UF Health, Tuesday. “When we see something like this happen, the future looks brighter.”
On Tuesday, Florida has 100,000 doses of the vaccine for five hospitals, including UF Health Jacksonville. CVS and Walgreens pharmacies in the state will also receive 60,000 doses to distribute in long-term care facilities, and the state will also receive 20,000 to administer in health care facilities.
Gov. Ron DeSantis expects to receive about 365,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine next week, following FDA emergency approval for that inoculation. In the next two months, vaccination priority will be given to health professionals, employees in long-term care facilities and residents of those facilities. In February and beyond, DeSantis added, the vaccine will be made available to people at high risk and the general public.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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