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Friday, January 15, 2021

UF Health among the first to receive COVID-19 vaccine in Florida, administering to select medical staff this week

UF Health Jacksonville received about 20,000 vaccines Monday — Students and broader university staff are expected to receive the vaccine later on

Thomas Johns, Director of Pharmacy Services at UF, gives a thumbs up after displaying the thermometer to the press. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has to be stored at ultracold temperatures.
Thomas Johns, Director of Pharmacy Services at UF, gives a thumbs up after displaying the thermometer to the press. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has to be stored at ultracold temperatures.

UF Health Jacksonville received about 20,000 COVID-19 vaccines and distributed 4,000 to UF Health Shands Hospital Monday.

UF Health Shands will begin vaccinating frontline workers Wednesday, said its spokesperson, Ken Garcia. It’s unclear when students and broader UF staff will receive the vaccine, but UF previously said it will provide the vaccine to everyone free of charge once it’s widely available.

UF will eventually also provide the vaccine to local communities, wrote Dr. David Nelson, president of UF Health and UF senior vice president for health affairs, in an email to students and staff Monday morning.

COVID-19 vaccine delivery to UF Health Gainesville
UF Health employees Terry Steger (right) and Thomas Johns (left) hoist a box containing 4,000 initial doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine onto a cart.

UF Health Jacksonville began vaccinating its medical staff Monday. Its CEO, Dr. Leon L. Haley Jr., is believed to be the first person to receive the vaccine in Florida.

UF Health Jacksonville is one of the “Pfizer Five” — the five hospitals in Florida that initially received and distributed the vaccine. The other hospitals include AdventHealth Orlando, as well as Tampa General, Memorial Regional, and Jackson Memorial Hospitals. 

Friday, the FDA approved Pfizer and BioNTech’s emergency request to distribute the vaccine, which was reported to be 95% effective. Distribution of the vaccine began Sunday: Florida is initially expecting to receive about 180,000 doses and about a million by the end 2020 if Moderna’s vaccine is approved, according to the Washington Post.

The university expects to receive more shipments of the vaccine every week to two weeks, Nelson wrote. Currently, the vaccines are reserved for select medical staff, but as UF receives more doses, it will be provided for local community health care workers and more UF Health staff.

COVID-19 vaccine delivery to UF Health Gainesville
Amy Rosenberg (left) and Suzy Wise (right), Assistant Directors of Pharmacy at UF, wheel the box of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine doses indoors.

“Even amid our excitement, we are mindful that for some in our country and around the world, this news comes too late,” Nelson wrote. “Many of you may have friends or families who have been directly impacted by COVID-19.”

As of Monday, 5,778 UF students and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 since March, according to the university’s dashboard. Since the beginning of the Fall semester, there have been 4,842 cases. UF’s case total, which trails behind Ohio State University’s, is among the highest out of all the country’s universities, according to The New York Times.

Vaccinations will not be mandatory, although they are strongly encouraged, Nelson wrote.

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Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine prevents COVID-19 after two doses given over a three-week period. The duration of protection against COVID-19 is unknown, according to the FDA.

Contact Thomas Weber at tweber@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @thomasjohnweber.

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