WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A major turning point in our fight against the deadly coronavirus pandemic is expected in Palm Beach County this week as the county is set to receive thousands of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Moderna vaccine, which was given an emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration just days ago, is on its way to Palm Beach County.
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Dr. Alina Alonso, the health director for Palm Beach County, said on Friday that 18,000 doses are expected to arrive at the county health department this week for disbursement.
"We can keep that for four weeks. We'll be working those four weeks to roll this out to fire rescue, EMS, paramedics, our county health department frontline and health care workers. We will be rolling that out," Alonso said. "Obviously, everyone cannot get the vaccine at the same time, so please be patient."
Alonso said plans are in place for how it will be given out.
"Palm Beach County is specifically being given the Moderna vaccine. It's much easier to handle, and it also has a very good efficacy, so we are very happy to have the Moderna. They are going to try to keep us with that same brand so that it doesn’t become confusing to people," Alonso said.
A spokesman for Baptist Health South Florida, which operates Boca Raton Regional Hospital, Bethesda Hospital East, and Bethesda Hospital West, said the Moderna vaccine arrived at the hospital system's warehouse in Doral on Monday and "distribution to its hospitals is forthcoming."
The Florida Department of Health has launched a vaccine dashboard to show how many people have received the vaccine in each county.
The report shows more than 800 people have received the vaccine in Palm Beach County. Those may be health care workers affiliated with hospital systems that have received the vaccine.
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"The corporate hospitals that have allowed staff from here to go to Broward and Miami to get vaccinated, so those folks did get the Pfizer," Alonso said on Friday.
Staff and residents at HarborChase of Palm Beach Gardens are excited to be among the first of the long-term care facilities to get the vaccine.
The first round of vaccines to arrive will be distributed to part of the staff, and the second round will be given to at least half of residents who want the vaccine. A third round will have enough doses for anyone who wasn't in the first or second rounds.
There are many things residents and staff at HarborChase want to get back to in 2021.
"I haven’t been to the mall for one year, almost one year," said resident Diana Antell
Antell moved into the Palm Beach Gardens center one year ago, and although she said staff members have done everything to continue communal activities in a socially distance manner, COVID-19 vaccines arriving at the center will bring new hope in the pandemic.
"It's a bright light at the end of a very long tunnel," Antell said.
Executive Director Nadia Ganot said the facility is partnering with Walgreens to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine in rounds to 100 residents ages 75 to 100 and close to 100 staff members.
"We don’t know exactly the date, but but we are preparing and making sure that we get all the consent forms in place and also we have all the equipment that we will need to set up the clinic," Ganot said.
But staff and residents know the reality that the vaccinations are one step toward a long march to the end of a pandemic. Ganot said even after the second and final dose of the vaccines they will contnue to operate under CDC guidelines.
"i have to say we have heroes that work here at HarborChase," Ganot said. "Everybody comes to work with a positive attitude and just making sure that we keep the residents safe."