Florida leaders eye converting COVID-19 testing sites into vaccine distribution centers

State and local leaders are still hammering out logistics for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, but a few places are already set to give out the shot and the most vulnerable will be first in line.

Meanwhile, the country is just days away from getting the first shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“My healthcare workers and people who are in congregate areas and long-term care facilities like nursing homes, or ALS, assisted living facilities, they will be first. They will be contacted, and we will make sure that they get everything they need,” said Dr. Kevin Sneed, the senior associate vice president at USF Health.

On Wednesday, doctors spoke with Tampa Mayor Jane Castor about vaccination distribution plans and how the first doses will go out. Castor said it’s likely large testing sites like Raymond James Stadium will eventually convert to give out the vaccine.

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“We should be able to turn those into vaccine shots or split it down the middle because we’ve already got such a great system set up for distribution there,” said Castor.

The FDA is expected to approve Pfizer’s vaccine for emergency use Thursday, and Governor Ron DeSantis said Florida should get its doses a day later. At a White House vaccine summit Tuesday, DeSantis shared how the state will get the shot out to nursing homes.

“In the state of Florida, we have 4,000 facilities. We’re working with CVS, Walgreens, to be able to do that,” said Governor DeSantis, R-Florida.

And on a federal level, the U.S. Department of Defense is working to prioritize the nation’s military, securing 44,000 doses.

“We don’t yet know how much quantity we’re going to get after that first week as additional vaccines in addition to Pfizer come out,” said Thomas McCaffery, the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.A chance at ending the pandemic is now in sight.

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“I’m thrilled that we’re really on the doorstep there,” said DeSantis.

Tampa General Hospital is one of the places getting the vaccine. Castors said the city is working with TGH to set up a place for the city’s healthcare workers to get the shot. CVS and Walgreens said they will set up clinics at nursing homes and give the shots for free.