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Coronavirus vaccine ‘pods’ being planned in Florida as healthcare workers get 1st shots

Jackson gets Pfizer vaccine Tuesday after Memorial Regional began inoculations Monday

It may not come until late February or March, but Florida is planning large distribution sites to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to residents. For now, the start is starting with emergency use of the shots.

MIAMI – Medical personnel in South Florida have started rolling up their sleeves to get the coronavirus vaccine, and the state’s emergency management director shared details Monday about how and when the shots will be distributed more broadly.

Jared Moskowitz said Florida is planning mass vaccination sites, called pods, which would be similar to the virus testing sites. He expects those will be available in late February or March.

In an interview with Local 10 News, Moskowitz also underlined that the arrival of the first vaccines isn’t a sign that people should reduce their efforts to slow the spread of the virus.

“It’s going to take many months until we see that community immunity, so now is not a time to let your guard down,” he said.

Some frontline workers at Memorial Regional Hospital received their first of two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine Monday afternoon in Miramar.

About 20,000 shots from the pharmaceutical company Pfizer are expected to arrive at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital on Tuesday, and they will be used to protect health care workers on the frontlines of the crisis.

Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine is being distributed to major hospital systems in Florida, and Miami's Jackson Health System is expected to start receiving shots Tuesday.

A 31-year-old nurse at Tampa General Hospital became the first person in Florida to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday morning. The first healthcare workers nationally were vaccinated earlier Monday in New York.

By Tuesday, Florida will have 100,000 doses of the vaccine for five hospital systems — Jackson Memorial in Miami-Dade, Memorial Regional in Broward, Tampa General, University of Florida-Shands in Jacksonville and Advent Health in Orlando.

Local 10 News asked Moskowitz, a Broward native, why Miami-Dade — Florida’s largest county and the source of its most COVID-19 cases — didn’t get the first vaccines Monday.

He said those logistics were determined by the federal government “but obviously we are very excited that that will be happening tomorrow and shots in arms can happen in Dade County immediately.”

Once the vials arrive at JMH, they will be distributed to 13 other hospitals in Miami-Dade County.

Jackson has ultracold freezers ready to store the vaccine, which must be kept at temperatures as low as -112 degrees.

Florida is expected to receive 179,400 doses initially, but that number is less than one percent of the state’s population.

“A number of 179,400 sounds like a tremendous amount of vaccine. That’s actually very little compared to our population, considering that we have to give two doses to each individual,” said infectious disease expert Dr. Aileen Marty of Florida International University.

Due to short supply, only the most vulnerable can get the vaccine.

CVS and Walgreens are receiving the vaccine so residents and staff at long-term care facilities can get it.

The state’s health department, division of emergency management, and the Florida National Guard will help the pharmacies administer doses for those in long-term care facilities.

Everyone who gets the vaccine will be given a six-page fact sheet from Pfizer that explains the benefits and risks of vaccination.

A recent internal survey of Jackson employees found that less than half polled (49%) would be interested in receiving the vaccine in its first round. Just over 35% said they would consider it in the future, while nearly 15% said they were not interested in the COVID-19 vaccine at all.

Selenne Mayoral, a case manager and recent bedside nurse, said at first she was hesitant about taking the vaccine, but she has since changed her mind.

“Because I have parents and family that I don’t want to infect, so I figured I would just go ahead and go do it,” Mayoral said.

Another drug manufacturer, Moderna, is scheduled to meet with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday as it seeks emergency use authorization for its vaccine.

About the Authors:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."

Madeleine Wright is a general assignment reporter for Local 10 News. She joined the team in March 2017.