Coronavirus vaccine arrives in Tampa Bay and Florida

The region’s first shot goes to a 31-year-old nurse from Tampa General Hospital.
Published Dec. 14, 2020|Updated Dec. 15, 2020

HISTORIC MOMENT: ‘20,000 doses of hope’: Tampa Bay gets first coronavirus vaccine shipment

THE DAYS AHEAD: With Pfizer’s vaccine approved, here’s what happens next in Tampa Bay

FLORIDA’S PLAN SO FAR: Vaccine “strike teams” will go to Pinellas County long-term care facilities.

PUBLIC SITES PLANNED: Raymond James likely to be a vaccine distribution site, Mayor Castor says

The first batches of coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and its partner BioNTech were shipped to hospitals across the nation this morning. See how our coverage unfolded early Monday as the vials arrived in Tampa Bay, Florida and beyond.

12:12 p.m. ET: Vaccine shots could start Wednesday or Thursday at care facilities

Pinellas County nursing homes and assisted-living facilities could start administering the coronavirus vaccines Wednesday or Thursday, said Tom Iovino, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County.

“Things are still a moving target,” he said. Facilities are still working to get consent forms properly filled out, Iovino said. Some residents will need to have a family member give consent if they’re unable to provide their own. “This is going to be a large administrative task,” he said.

- Bailey LeFever

11:40 a.m. ET: The first coronavirus vaccine shot in Tampa Bay

“Let’s actually get some shots in arms,” DeSantis says. The first recipient is Vanessa Arroyo, 31-year-old nurse in Tampa General’s new COVID unit, the Taneja Family Global Emerging Diseases Institute. She has worked at the hospital for eight years.

(Editor’s note: UF Health’s CEO in Jacksonville was the first person in Florida to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. The tweet above is incorrect due to an erroneous statement by Gov. Ron DeSantis.)

11:35 a.m. ET: Much more vaccine to come after this

Here’s a breakdown of where the doses will go, according to Gov. Ron DeSantis: By Tuesday morning, Tampa General Hospital and four other Florida hospitals will have 100,000 does of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. By week’s end, Florida will have 179,000 doses.

Next week, DeSantis said, Florida will receive 365,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, pending approval on Thursday and Friday by the Food and Drug Administration. He said there’s also the possibility that Pfizer will provide “several hundred thousand” more doses by next week.

So in three weeks, that could mean between 700,000 and 1 million doses of vaccine.

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- Mike Van Sickler

11:28 a.m. ET: Now arriving, “20,000 doses of hope,” says Tampa General CEO

John Couris, president and CEO of Tampa General, says it’s a historic moment.

11:24 a.m. ET: Next up in Florida, the Moderna vaccine, DeSantis says

Today it’s the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Next week, DeSantis says, expect the Moderna vaccine to be approved and soon after shipped to Florida. Thousands of doses will be headed to long-term care facilities.

11:10 a.m. ET: DeSantis was at the loading dock when the vaccine arrived

Florida will have 100,000 doses at five hospitals by tomorrow, DeSantis said.

10:39 a.m. ET: UF Health Jacksonville claims Florida’s vaccination

From UF Health Jacksonville: “At 10:39 a.m., Dr. Leon L. Haley Jr., a board-certified emergency room physician, CEO of UF Health Jacksonville and dean of the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville, is thought to be the first in the state to be vaccinated. He was followed by additional physicians, nurses, a pharmacist and other health care workers who work in areas of the hospital that most frequently care for patients with COVID-19.”

10:48 a.m. ET: Tampa General says it got 19,500 doses of the vaccine

Tampa General got 3,900 vials of the vaccine, each with five doses.

10:40 a.m. ET: An update from Tampa General

A top doctor says hospital will stick to the protocol of two doses of the vaccine per patient after Gov. Ron DeSantis suggested recently that one dose could suffice.

10:22 a.m. ET: Florida National Guard to help with assisted living distribution

The Florida National Guard is assisting the Florida Department of Health with logistics of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine distribution at assisted living facilities. Strike teams made of two guardsmen and two members of the Department of Health will be setting everything up at assisted living facilities across the state for vaccine distribution, said Guard spokesperson Lt. Col. Caitlin Brown.

This is an ongoing assignment, Brown added.

- Ileana Najarro

10:15 a.m. ET: Nursing homes awaiting word on when shots can begin

Pinellas and Broward County long-term care residents and caregivers will be the first to receive coronavirus vaccines, the Tampa Bay Times reported Friday. The Department is currently working out the details on who will receive the vaccines first, Tom Iovino, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County. Grand Villa Senior Living Communities in Pinellas County do not have the vaccinations scheduled yet with their pharmacy provider, CVS, according to spokeswoman Sandi Poreda.

- Bailey LeFever

9:58 a.m. ET: From coast to coast, the rollout begins

Associated Press takes an early look around the country.

“I feel hopeful today. Relieved,” said critical case nurse Sandra Lindsay, one of the first health care workers to get the vaccine at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York.

“This is mile 24 of a marathon. People are fatigued. But we also recognize that this end is in sight,” said Dr. Chris Dale of Swedish Health Services in Seattle.

- Thomas C. Tobin

9:52 a.m. ET: Nursing homes prepare

“They just want to get back to some kind of normal life,” says Gail Matillo, the president and CEO of the Florida Senior Living Association says of residents. “By springtime, we could have some healthy residents again.” Amid talk of people not wanting to take the vaccine there are plenty who feel otherwise. Many Florida nursing home residents and their families are waiting anxiously for the vaccine.

- Thomas C. Tobin

9:48 a.m. ET: Live from Tampa General

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is expected to arrive soon.

9:36 a.m. ET: DeSantis to speak at Tampa General

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office announced he will hold a news conference at 11 a.m. with Tampa General Hospital CEO John Couris and Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz. The governor’s news conferences are aired on The Florida Channel.

- Thomas C. Tobin

9:00 a.m. ET: Tampa General Hospital to receive first shipment soon

The hospital received confirmation that the first vials of the vaccine will arrive around 10:30 a.m. Monday. Members of the media will be allowed to chronicle the moment and a Tampa General pharmacist will discuss protocols, including how the vaccine will be stored in the hospital’s ultra-cold freezers.

After that, according to plans discussed by officials last week, health care workers at Tampa General will be the first to receive the drug.

- Thomas C. Tobin

• • •

Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage

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