UF Health CEO gets first COVID-19 vaccine in Jacksonville

UF Health CEO gets first COVID-19 vaccine in Jacksonville
UF Health CEO gets first COVID-19 vaccine in Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Eleven months after the earliest recorded case of coronavirus in the United States, the first 10,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine arrived Monday morning at UF Health Jacksonville and the first 10 shots were quickly administered to emergency room and intensive care workers, including the medical center’s CEO.

Pfizer’s COVID19 vaccine shipment from Michigan arrived around 9:15 a.m. Jacksonville’s vaccine supply was transported in freezer packs along with 3 million other vials set to be delivered across the country.

After CEO Leon Haley, who is also an emergency physician, got the first shot, staff gathered around the vaccination site in the lobby cheered.

“This is a humbling moment,” Haley said. “This is just the beginning of a long battle. We’ll still need to wear our masks. We’ll still need to wash our hands.”

Haley was followed by other doctors, nurses, a pharmacist and other front-line staff who work closest with COVID-19 patients. All were asked to say in a holding area for 15 minutes to monitor for any ill effects, although none were anticipated.

“In a single word, (I was) honored,” Dr. David Vukick said. “I just want people to understand that it is safe.”

Nurse Danielle Parker was overcome with emotion after receiving her shot, having seen what this virus has done to her patients.

“Getting back to normal and potentially saving some people from getting infected,” Parker said. “I’ve been working with these patients for so long and I can see what it can do.”

On Tuesday, 100 more doses will be given to employees at the highest risk, then more vaccines will be administered each day until all front-line staff is vaccinated. Employees are not required but “highly encouraged” to get the vaccine.

Asked what he will do first after he gets both doses of the vaccine Wayne Phillips, do works in IT at UF Health, said he wants to go out to eat.

“I miss eating out in public. I’ll go out to a restaurant for a nice, good meal and hug my mother. I haven’t hugged my mother in a long time,” Phillips said.

First local COVID-19 vaccinations at UF Health
First local COVID-19 vaccinations at UF Health

UF Health anticipates receiving another 10,000 doses on Tuesday and will also deliver some of the vaccine with other hospitals in the area. Baptist Health told News4Jax its employees will likely start receiving their vaccines next week.

The state is working on getting other vaccines to long-term-care residents and staff as part of the first rollout of the vaccine.

CDC says race, ethnicity are risk markers

According to the CDC, African Americans are four times as likely to be hospitalized for a COVID-19 infection compared to white Americans. And the COVID-19 death rate is twice as high in Blacks compared to whites.

News4Jax spoke with African Americans in Jacksonville about the new vaccine who had mixed feelings about the shot.

“At the rate of many of us passing, I think we need it,” said Andre Williams.

“I will take it, but I’m not saying I will be the first person to get it,” said Lindsey Brookins.

“I don’t think a lot of African Americans will take it,” said Kimberly Fuller. “Me personally, I don’t like to put anything in my body and not know exactly what it is.”

Community activist Ben Frazier said many African Americans might not readily trust the vaccine. He made reference to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study

“I think the experiments taken against Black people in regards to syphilis and Tuskegee Airmen in the past would be the reason for so many people have reluctance, hesitance or inhibitions to taking this vaccine,” he said.

The first shipments of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine headed out from Michigan Sunday morning. Federal officials said the first shipments of Pfizer’s vaccine will be staggered, arriving in 145 distribution centers Monday, with an additional 425 sites getting shipments Tuesday, and the remaining 66 on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.

Additional shipments will be sent to the state every one to two weeks. It is anticipated that there will be a limited supply for the first several weeks.

Florida, which on Saturday passed 20,000 coronavirus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic, is expected to receive more than 179,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the first shipment.

Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis said the Sunshine state will receive 180,000 doses. Five of Florida’s largest health systems, including UF Health in Jacksonville, will receive 100,000 doses. It’s not clear if the doses were shared evenly between hospitals.

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