Rivkees: UF Health Jacksonville Could Have Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Next Week

Dec 8, 2020

Florida’s top public health official said Tuesday that five Florida hospitals, including UF Health Jacksonville, could receive COVID-19 vaccinations as early as next week.

Department of Health Secretary Scott Rivkees, who also serves as the state's surgeon general, gave the update during a statewide call with hospitals administrators, according to executives on the phone call.

Pfizer Inc.’s COVID 19-vaccination will be sent to the state after the pharmaceutical company receives emergency use authorization from the federal government, which is expected to come after the Food and Drug Administration's vaccine advisory committee meets Dec. 10.

Referred to as the “Pfizer 5,” Broward Memorial, UF Health Jacksonville, Tampa General Hospital, Advent Health in Orlando, and Jackson Memorial in Miami will be the first Florida hospitals to receive the vaccine.

Related: Local, State, And National Coronavirus Coverage

UF Health Jacksonville Infection Prevention Specialist Chad Neilsen clarified recently on First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross that receiving the vaccine doesn't necessarily mean people will line up at his hospital to get the shot.  Rather, UF Health is considered a "pre-staging" site where vaccines will be stored at extremely cold temperatures. 

Related: UF Health Jacksonville Prepares To Become COVID-19 Vaccine 'Pre-Staging' Site

“Our facility, much like other academic health centers, have these deep freezers needed for research and viral specimens and things of that nature,” said Neilsen. “You’re only going to find these freezers at mostly large-scale institutions that have some kind of academic research mission and we are one of those,” Neilsen said on Nov. 23.

Four of the five facilities are members of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, a statewide hospital association. Justin Senior, the association’s CEO, told The News Service of Florida Monday night that his member hospitals don’t yet know the amount of Pfizer vaccines they will be receiving next week.

But Senior said the expectation is that the hospitals will use the product to vaccinate front-line health-care workers. “I do think that it’s possible - and certainly it seems like, talking to various officials - that seven to 10 days after this first shipment coming into five hospitals, (the federal government) will be able to expand significantly the number of hospitals with the vaccines.

And it will be both the second wave of the Pfizer vaccine as well as potentially the Moderna vaccine,” Senior said.

Moderna also submitted a request for emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate.

The FDA vaccine advisory committee meets Dec. 17 to discuss Moderna’s request for emergency use authorization.

Rivkees was joined on Tuesday morning’s phone call by Agency for Health Care Administration Deputy Secretary Molly McKinstry.

Though the statewide phone call was a public meeting with attendees advised to use a state toll-free phone number, it was not recorded, according to state Agency for Heatlh Care Administration spokeswoman Katie Strickland. Weems Hospital CEO David Weems confirmed Rivkees’ remarks to the News Service.

Rivkees' update about the vaccine came as Gov. Ron DeSantis traveled to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday to attend a White House summit with President Donald Trump to highlight the rollout of the vaccine.

- WJCT News contributed to this report.