TAMPA, Fla. - Tampa General Hospital will be among the first across Florida to store the new COVID-19 vaccine while they wait for final approval to use it.
AdventHealth Orlando will reportedly also be among the first, along with UF Health Jacksonville, Hollywood's Memorial Regional and Miami's Jackson Memorial.
“It is a little bit like staging resources before a hurricane," explained Dr. Marissa Levine, a public health expert from the University of South Florida. "You have it ready to go when you need it and it's authorized to go."
The first vaccines would start arriving mid-December with another shipment on the way in January.
Governor Ron DeSantis said in a statement posted on Youtube Thursday that the state would not require anyone to get the vaccine, but that the "goal is to make all safe and effective COVID vaccines available to those who want them."
“I do believe these breakthroughs represent probably the greatest rays of hope we've seen since the pandemic began. They offer the prospect of saving thousands of lives and bringing this to an end,” the governor said.
The reporting comes as TGH announces it's given the first COVID antibody treatment in the state provided by the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed. The treatment, made by Eli Lilly, is the first to be approved for emergency use authorization by the FDA.
The one-time injection helps provide an immune response against the virus in patients with mild symptoms before they get worse. TGH said there is currently a limited supply but said this marks a dramatic shift in its COVID-19 care.
The plan to start sending the vaccine to hospitals comes as Florida's COVID-19 infections continue to rise, according to the state's health department data. Infectious disease experts warn that a positivity rate above 5% shows the virus is not under control.
Hillsborough County is currently sitting above 7%, with Pinellas above 6%, Polk above 8% and Pasco nearing 9% positivity for new cases