Local leaders: FDA Pfizer vaccine approval could improve Florida vaccination rate

St. Pete hosts Poke and Park event Sunday
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Posted at 4:28 PM, Aug 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-22 18:21:13-04

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Leaders with the FDA say they’re on track to give full approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as early as Monday. Public health experts hope the approval will pave the way for more Americans to get the shot.

James Green Jr. of St. Petersburg spent the last 7 months contemplating whether to get the COVID vaccine.

“If you have any reservations, and I had some at first, but you’ve got to get past that. You only have one life to live, and you don’t get another life, so you’ve got to take care of yourself and your family,” he explained moments after getting vaccinated Sunday at an event at St. Pete City Hall.

Green says two things led to this decision: his sister getting COVID and the realization this pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon.

“I think it’s going to be here for a while. Not only here but all over the world and the best way to beat it is to get vaccinated,” he elaborated.

Zachary Walsh also got his first dose Sunday.

“In the beginning, it was a numbers game it seemed like and now that it’s been long enough and run its course through a ton of people it’s a reliable option,” he said.

St. Pete is sweetening the deal by offering a free month of downtown parking in any city parking garage and $20 in grocery vouchers for anyone who gets the vaccine.

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“It’s a critical piece of public health, so we are doing everything we can not be judgmental but to be welcoming, inclusive and making sure everyone understands what they can do to help move us through this pandemic,” Dr. Kanika Tomalin, St. Petersburg’s Deputy Mayor added.

Health experts expect the FDA’s full approval of Pfizer’s vaccine to encourage even more people to get vaccinated. It could also pave the way for universities and businesses to require the shots.

In Florida, just over 50% of people are fully vaccinated. That number is a little better in Tampa Bay.

Hillsborough County has 61% of those age 12 and older fully vaccinated…and in Pinellas, that number is closer to 63%, according to the Florida Department of Health. It comes as more than 95,000 people in the US are hospitalized with the virus.

Walsh says he’s proud to do his part.

“I feel great. I feel awesome. I’m glad I did it,” he said eagerly.