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Friday, January 15, 2021

UF Health begins administering COVID-19 vaccines in Gainesville

UF Health Shands Hospital gave 12 frontline workers vaccines Wednesday

<p>Samuel Overly, a UF Health clinical leader, is the first to get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at UF Health Shands Cancer Hospital on Dec. 16, 2020. Suzy Wise administered the anticipated shot.</p>

Samuel Overly, a UF Health clinical leader, is the first to get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at UF Health Shands Cancer Hospital on Dec. 16, 2020. Suzy Wise administered the anticipated shot.

Dr. Joseph A. Tyndall was one of the first in Gainesville to get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday morning.

He said it didn’t hurt.

UF Health Shands Hospital administered its first 12 vaccines from UF Health Jacksonville at a news conference early Wednesday morning. Tyndall, chair of emergency medicine and emergency room physician, was the second person to be vaccinated.

Pfizer and BioNTech received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to distribute their vaccines Friday, and distribution of the vaccine to hospitals around the country began shortly after. 

UF Health Jacksonville received 20,000 doses on Monday and was one of the first five hospitals in Florida to receive the vaccine. About 4,000 of the 20,000 vaccines were then distributed to UF Health Shands Hospital.

“Tens of thousands of staff at UF Health here in Gainesville every day wake up hoping to make a difference,” said Ed Jimenez, UF Health chief executive officer. “They’ve been scared, but they persevered. Nine months later, they’re really tired.” 

Dr. Parker Gibbs, UF Health chief medical officer, said he expects all UF Health workers to be vaccinated within two months.

“There’s still a lot of heavy lifting, a lot of continued PPE wearing,” he said. “But now there’s a glimmer at the end, and I think we’re going to see the light.”

Frontline doctors, nurses and other health workers will receive the vaccines first. Then all UF Health staff will have access to the vaccinations. It remains unclear when vaccines for the greater UF community will be available, but UF previously said it will provide the vaccine to students and faculty for free once widely accessible.

Suzy Wise, assistant director of pharmacy services at UF Health, administered the first long-anticipated vaccinations to Samuel Overly, a critical care clinical leader.

“I’m still standing,” he said at the news conference after receiving the needle in his arm.

Overly came straight from caring for a patient to get the vaccine.

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“We work bedside,” he said. “We don’t know who’s got COVID, we don’t know who we run into in the community that has it. We just take them anyway. We take care of them, and I think this is just another way for us to protect ourselves.”

While the vaccine is not mandatory for hospital staff, Dr. Nicole Iovine, hospital chief epidemiologist, said it is heavily encouraged.

Getting the vaccine is a demonstration of trust in science, said Tyndall — it’s an effort to help the greater good.

UF Health Shands Hospital hasn’t had a day without a COVID-19 patient since the first one in March, said Harvey Norton, UF Health ICU nurse manager.

“As a community at large we really owe it to each other to not spread this virus any more,” he said. “It’s always nerve wracking to have a new vaccine, but it's well tested and well funded so we are very very excited.”

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect that Suzy Wise is the assistant director of pharmacy services at UF Health. The Alligator previously reported otherwise.

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