‘The science is there’: Will vaccine approval lead to more shots in Florida?

Biden pushes corporations to mandate shots but many say they won’t

President Biden urges corporations to mandate COVID-19 vaccines now that they are being fully approved, but time will tell if that happens.

COCONUT CREEK, Fla. – Exhausted mentally and physically, South Florida hospitals are running thin. On Monday, more than 70 physicians of different specialties staged a symbolic walk-out in Palm Beach County, practically begging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 after watching do many die in the past few weeks.

“My kids are in the Palm Beach County schools. We’ve been in school for two weeks and the number of cases has skyrocketed,” said Dr. Jennifer Buczyner, a neurologist at Jupiter Medical Center.

Hospitals in Broward and Miami Dade counties also dealing with a surge of infections, mostly among unvaccinated patients.

And that’s why infectious disease experts are hoping the full approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine Monday leads to more people feeling comfortable getting the shots.

“The science is there. The clinical trials are in abundance, and we must stop denying the data,” said Dr. Leslie Diaz, an infectious diseases specialist in North Palm Beach.

Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious diseases expert at Florida International University, said she was excited when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced the Pfizer vaccine was getting full approval after it had been administered in the United States under special emergency provisions.

“I think it’s going to encourage a significant chunk of the people who have been waiting for that,” Marty said. “We had gone over the data with a fine-tooth comb, and I knew that the data was solid, that this was a safe and effective vaccine. "

Moderna has also applied to the FDA for full approval of its vaccine. Johnson & Johnson, maker of the third option in the U.S., said it hopes to do so later this year.

Experts say it is critical for the unvaccinated to come forward and get the shots as contagious variants have cases surging in Florida.

“Our hospitals are completely overwhelmed,” Marty said. “Our nursing staff is in dire shape. We’re low on oxygen here in Miami, just as they are in Orlando.”

Almost 17,000 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state, according to the Florida Hospital Association, far more than at any point last year.

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said 330 people in the county were on ventilators over the weekend, noting that 80% of those admitted to hospitals Saturday were unvaccinated.

While the FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine could mean more people becoming comfortable with the shot, it also opens the door for more vaccine mandates by companies.

President Joe Biden is calling on corporations to put mandates in place for their employees.

“Those who have been waiting for full approval should go get your shot now,” Biden said. “Vaccination is free, safe, easy and effective.”

Time will tell which companies follow that call.

Three major U.S. airlines — Southwest, American and Delta — announced they will not require vaccines for their employees.

Florida-based Publix, which employs more than 225,000 people in the southeast, said “we continue to encourage, but not require, our associates to get vaccinated.”

About 51% of Florida’s population has been fully vaccinated, which is above the national average.

According to a new poll from the Associated Press, 57% percent of Americans support a vaccine requirement to fly.

To find out where you can get a COVID-19 vaccine in South Florida, click here.

About the Authors:

Andrew Perez is a South Florida native who joined the Local 10 News team in May 2014.

Bridgette Matter joined the Local 10 News team as a reporter in July 2021. Before moving to South Florida, she began her career in South Bend, Indiana and spent six years in Jacksonville as a reporter and weekend anchor.