Tampa General Hospital received its first shipment of the Pfizer two-dose COVID-19 vaccine on December 15 as part of the state’s pilot program to fight the pandemic.

Tampa General Hospital (TGH) received its first shipment of the Pfizer two-dose COVID-19 vaccine on December 15, 2020 as part of the state’s pilot program to fight the pandemic. Tampa General has assembled an internal task force committee of experts to develop the process for vaccine distribution in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations.

The initial shipment of vaccines for this pilot program will be distributed to healthcare workers battling COVID-19 on the front lines. Guidance by the CDC indicates community access to the vaccine will be available around the spring this year, depending on vaccine production levels.

“This vaccine provides hope to our community and Tampa General is honored to support this pilot program,” said John Couris, president and CEO of Tampa General Hospital. “We are ready to accept the shipment; we have the personnel, the supplies and the procedures in place to distribute the vaccine. We stand ready to support the governor and our state officials in whatever capacity is asked of us in the distribution of the vaccine.”

In this first phase and in accordance with federal guidelines, the COVID-19 vaccine stored at Tampa General will only be available to TGH physicians and staff at greatest risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace.

If the vaccine supply received allows for it and once the initial group of TGH workers has begun to receive the vaccination, TGH will supply partner hospitals AdventHealth, BayCare, Bayfront, HCA and Moffitt with the vaccine for their first phase group of healthcare workers.

The vaccine requires ultra-cold storage (-80 degrees Celsius/-112 degrees Fahrenheit) to maintain maximum effectiveness. Tampa General’s pharmacy currently utilizes three freezers, allowing TGH to safely store a total of 510,000 doses of the vaccine at once.

“The freezers at TGH also produce dry ice, which will be essential for transporting the vaccine safely when needed,” Couris said.

Tampa General will not act as a vaccine distribution site to the community in this initial phase, as directed by the CDC. To support the needs of the local nursing homes and long-term care facilities, the state has contracted with both CVS and Walgreens to administer vaccinations to those patients as well as the healthcare workers who provide their direct patient care.

The second phase of vaccinations is expected to begin in early 2021 and, if supply is sufficient, will apply to additional Tampa General physicians or healthcare workers in direct patient care, persons over 65 with underlying health conditions, first responders, law enforcement and essential workers, including teachers, childcare providers as well as food distribution employees.

If you would like to learn more about Tampa General Hospital, visit www.tgh.org.

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Libby is a writer for The Osprey Observer/The Christian Voice. She started as an intern in 2009 and upon finishing her internship, she was asked to stay on as a permanent writer for both papers. Libby lives in Brandon with her two rescue dogs, Olive and Bogey.