TAMPA, Fla. -- The first doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine have arrived at Tampa General Hospital.
Early Sunday morning, semi-trucks hit the road and planes took flight, carrying the very first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The first shipment arrived in Tampa Monday morning. Governor DeSantis was there to welcome the delivery.
A 31-year-old nurse was the first in the Tampa Bay Area to receive the vaccine since its emergency use authorization.
Four others received vaccines throughout the day, including an environmental services worker, a respiratory therapist and two doctors. Hundreds more are expected to receive doses each day this week at TGH.
"This is 20,000 doses of hope. This is the beginning to the end. This is monumental if you’re sitting in our shoes caring for the patients who need us the most. This is game time. We’re ready," said John Couris, the hospital's CEO and president.
Tampa General Hospital is one of five pilot hospital sites in the state of Florida to get some of the first doses of the vaccine.
"This is a game-changer, it's a great day for America and a great day for the state of Florida," Governor DeSantis said.
DeSantis said the shipment of some 20,000 vaccines to the hospital is a historic moment. By Tuesday, Florida will have 100,000 doses of the vaccine for five hospitals — Jackson Memorial in Miami, Broward Memorial, and University of Florida-Shands in Jacksonville, and Advent Health in Orlando. CVS and Walgreens pharmacies in the state will also receive 60,000 doses to distribute at long-term care facilities, and the state will get 20,000 to administer at care facilities as well.
According to Governor Ron DeSantis, Florida is set to receive 179,400 doses of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine in the first shipment.
"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."
This is how those first doses will be allocated, according to Governor DeSantis:
- 97,500 will be sent to 5 Florida hospitals
- 60,450 will be sent to CVS and Walgreens for Florida long-term care facilities
- 21,450 will be sent to the Florida Department of Health, Division of Emergency Management, and the Florida National Guard strike teams in order to supplement CVS' and Walgreens' outreach to long-term care facilities.
Once the vaccines arrive at Tampa General Hospital, they said they'll start vaccinating frontline health care workers who are at the greatest risk of exposure to COVID-19. Then, they'll also coordinate with other area hospitals.
“My guess is that at this time next week, when I open up those freezers, there’s gonna be vaccine in those freezers, and by this time next week we’re gonna be putting shots in arms, injections into arms of our health care workers. I hope to be vaccinated by this time next week,” said Dr. Jason Wilson, the Associate Director of Tampa General Hospital’s Emergency Department last week.
Sunday morning, planes took off from Michigan and began delivering the first d
oses of the vaccine to distribution sites across the country.
The initial shipments were expected to contain around 3 million doses of Pfizer's vaccine, which will go to sites across the United States
“This is a moon-landing-level scientific breakthrough. The sadness of this pandemic overshadows, to some extent, how amazing this scientific breakthrough is,” said Dr. Wilson.
These first vaccine shipments come less than a year after the United States had its first confirmed COVID-19 case, and just days after the FDA granted an Emergency Use Authorization to Pfizer for their vaccine.
“If we can get the nursing homes, the first-line health care, and then start getting it out to the broader senior population, man that’s gonna make such a big difference,” said Governor Ron DeSantis during a roundtable in Tampa on Friday.
"This is as safe as any other vaccines we currently give to our children. So I think it’s safe. It’s amazingly effective. It’s more effective than most of the vaccines we give currently. And it’s an achievement to have such a safe and effective vaccine. Other worries are about side effects. What’s gonna happen once I get that vaccine. Side effects are generally mild, so very similar to the vaccines we currently give out," said Michael Teng, Ph.D. and associate professor of medicine at USF, who has spent decades studying viruses and immunology, and helping develop vaccines.
Thursday, an FDA advisory committee will discuss a possible second emergency use authorization, this one for Moderna's vaccine candidate.
If authorized, the Governor expects Florida to receive around 365,000 doses of Moderna's vaccine.
More vaccine candidates are also undergoing clinical trials, including one for Novavax taking place at Tampa General Hospital and USF and one for Johnson & Johnson's vaccine candidate, underway at James A Haley Veteran's Hospital.
But state leaders warn that it will take time before there is enough vaccine for the general public.
And doctors warn that now is not the time to let your guard down.
“We’re still gonna be wearing masks. These vaccines prevent symptomatic COVID, they prevent people from getting sick from COVID, we’re not quite sure yet exactly how much they prevent asymptomatic spread of COVID,” said Dr. Wilson.
That's something he says experts are still testing.