How soon could you get a COVID-19 vaccine in Florida?

Local News

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – After hopeful news from the drug maker Pfizer, you might be wondering how soon you could be able to get a coronavirus vaccine. 8 On Your Side is getting answers about Florida’s vaccine roll-out plan.

Experts tell 8 On Your Side, as of right now, you’re not going to be able to get a Pfizer vaccine for many months unless you’re part of an at-risk group.

While Floridians debate whether or not they want to take the coronavirus vaccine, the state is revealing its COVID-19 vaccination plan.

According to the latest draft, the first limited doses go to healthcare workers, long-term care residents, and first responders. Like with testing, older adults and those at higher risk of COVID complications, are also given priority.

Eventually, the shots would be available to the general public at state and/or county managed sites.

“It’s exciting to see what we can do when we all put our minds together,” said Dr. Michael Teng.

Teng, a USF virologist and associate professor of medicine, believes wide distribution won’t happen until late next year.

“It looks like it’s a really effective vaccine,” Teng said. “You always want to see the end result, this is in the middle.”

News Channel 8’s Mahsa Saeidi asked how Florida can get ready for the vaccine.

“The one issue here with the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine,” said Teng, “…it requires ultra-low refrigeration so it’s not going to be that easy to distribute.”

Storage requirements might initially limit where you can get the shot. Teng says specialized freezers are usually only in hospitals and labs.

But the million dollar question: Is it safe to take the vaccine once it’s approved?

Teng believes the FDA is not skipping steps, balancing safety with urgency.

“Emergency use authorizations, as we know from this pandemic, can be pulled when they prove not to be correct,” said Teng. “We’re going fast, and by necessity, we’re going fast.”

We have the early data in from Pfizer. Experts say, if the long-term results show this vaccine is more than 90% effective, that would be remarkable.

By contrast, the flu vaccine is only about 40 to 60 percent effective.

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