TAMPA, Fla. — Calling it a "historic day," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says the very first shipments of the highly anticipated COVID-19 vaccine have arrived in Florida on Monday.
"This is a game changer," DeSantis said during a news conference at Tampa General Hospital. "It's a great day for the United States. It's a great day for the state of Florida."
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DeSantis said shipments of a COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer arrived at Tampa General Hospital, Broward Memorial Hospital, and UF Health Jacksonville on Monday.
Shipments will arrive at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami-Dade County and AdventHealth Orlando on Tuesday.
DeSantis said Florida will have around 179,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine by the end of this week.
"This is a really, really significant milestone in terms of combating the coronavirus pandemic," DeSantis said. "Today, we will have shots going in arms. We will have health care workers getting vaccinated."
The governor said five hospital systems in Florida were selected for the initial rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine because of their ability to store it properly.
"[The federal government] didn't want to have massive numbers of hospitals. If there were problems, the problems would be exacerbated. This is kind of a beta test. They wanted to run it through, make sure things were running smoothly," DeSantis said.
The initial doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will go to high contact, high exposure health care workers within the five hospital systems, followed by residents at long-term care facilities throughout the state.
An advisory committee for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will meet on Thursday to decide whether to recommend a COVID-19 vaccine that's produced by Moderna.
DeSantis said he expects full FDA approval by Friday, with the initial shipments of the Moderna vaccine arriving in Florida between Sunday and Tuesday of next week.
Florida is due to receive 365,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, according to DeSantis.
"That is going to continue to serve our long-term care mission, but also start, hopefully, as the frontline health care workers have this available, to start getting it out to some of the elderly population outside of long-term care facilities,' DeSantis said. "By the third week of December, when we get even more Moderna, we hope to be able to really start to offer that."
RIGHT NOW: @GovRonDeSantis speaking live about COVID vaccine rollout. Calls this a “historic day” as 179,000+ doses arrive in Florida. @WPTV @FOX29WFLX Close to 400k doses of Moderna could arrive next week. pic.twitter.com/PF65M6TpZQ— Stephanie Susskind (@StephanieWPTV) December 14, 2020
At the end of Monday's news conference, Vanessa Arroyo, a frontline nurse at Tampa General Hospital, became the very first health care worker in Florida to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
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Officials from Memorial Healthcare System in Broward County said they received 19,500 doses of the vaccine on Monday.
Those doses will be given to frontline medical employees who work in the critical care and emergency departments at Broward Memorial Hospital and five other hospitals throughout Broward County.
"For the first time, we're seeing light at the end of the tunnel," said Aurelio Fernandez, the president and CEO of Memorial Healthcare System. "It is the beginning of something that's gonna be very, very positive."
Fernandez said health care workers will begin receiving the vaccine on Tuesday. There are two doses which have to be given at least 21 days apart.
According to the latest numbers from the Florida Department of Health, there are 1,125,931 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 19,866 coronavirus-related deaths in Florida.