TGH gears up arrival of COVID-19 vaccine

Tampa General Hospital continued ramping up its preparations to receive the first round of COVID-19 vaccines in the coming days.

Dr. Jason Wilson, an emergency room physician at TGH, said the vaccines have been pre-positioned by Pfizer as the company awaited the FDA to approve the drug manufacturer's emergency use authorization request.

"Once you get that emergency use authorization approval, we really expect to start to see the vaccine move from those regional sites right to the negative-70 degree freezers at the designated locations," Wilson said.

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TGH is one of five sites in Florida that can store the vaccines, with room for up to 30,000 doses at a time. TGH expects to have them in stock by December 15.

The first round of doses will be given to healthcare workers on the COVID-19 frontlines and residents and staff at long-term care facilities.

"Honestly, sitting here right now, I would expect that this time next week we've got the vaccine in the freezer and we are beginning to actually put the vaccine into arms of our healthcare team members," Wilson said. "Overall the mood, I think, is fairly hopeful and excited."

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TGH has been surveying its staff to see who will want to receive a vaccine.

Bonnie Williamson, Grand Villa Senior Living Centers' Assistant Director of Compliance, said there are 2,000 residents at Grand Villa's facilities in the Tampa Bay area. It is among the companies that will partner with CVS and Walgreens to set up free clinics for seniors at long-term care centers.

"We've been preparing for a couple of months now, getting ready for the inevitable vaccine that we've all been waiting for, for so long," Williamson said. "We're really hoping that we get as many vaccines as we can."

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While Grand Villa will not require residents or employees to be vaccinated, Williamson said she's hoping most of them will.

"I think that's the most important thing that we can do for our residents right now is to get them back to some semblance of normalcy," Williamson said. "Our residents' lives have been completely uprooted for the last several months."

Meanwhile, Dr. Wilson said people should not view the arrival of vaccines as a reason to relax their COVID-19 safety measures. He believes the community should tighten up even more to minimize the number of infections and deaths between now and when vaccine use is widespread.

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The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

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