MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Florida hospitals began receiving the coronavirus vaccine on Monday and that included Memorial Healthcare and Jackson Healthcare Systems in South Florida.
Memorial and Jackson are two of five healthcare systems in Florida chosen to receive the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine.
At Memorial Healthcare System in Broward County, the initial shipment arrived Monday morning and, per CDC guidelines, will be used to inoculate South Florida’s frontline workers in contact with COVID-19 patients.
WATCH: First COVID-19 Vaccine Shipment Arrives at Memorial Healthcare System
The vaccine couldn’t have come soon enough.
“We’ve been in this journey now for 10 months. Our first patient came to us on March 7, said Memorial Health System President and CEO Aurelio Fernandez at an afternoon news conference. “And now for the first time, we’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel.”
Memorial received 19,500 doses of the vaccine that is being prioritized for ER and critical care staff first.
“We have to take care of those individuals who are taking care of all of you,” said Fernandez.
WATCH: Memorial Healthcare System News Conference on COVID-19 Vaccine
Fernandez estimates about 7,000 of its 14,000 employees will participate in the vaccinations.
Frontline healthcare workers at sister hospitals in Broward County will also receive the vaccine.
“We’re also in contact with neighboring hospitals in Broward. We have identified five other hospitals that will participate,” said Fernandez.
Those hospitals are Cleveland Clinic in Weston, Broward Health Medical Center in Plantation, Westside Regional Medical Center in Plantation, Florida Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, and Holy Cross Health
As soon as the news conference was over, frontline workers from Memorial began receiving their vaccinations.
“I had the pleasure of being the first Memorial employee to be vaccinated with the new Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine,” said Dr. Aharon Sareli, Chief of Critical Care.
The first workers to get the vaccine said it wasn’t so bad.
“It’s just like a normal injection, like you’re getting your flu shot. Didn’t feel anything, no pain,” said pharmacist Alberto Augsten.
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They’re hoping to set an example for anyone who may be wary about getting vaccinated.
“I wanted to be one of the first so I can show you it’s not bad at all. And if we are to come against this disease we need to be vaccinated,” said Latanya Forbes, Director of Safety and Compliance.
“Today we now have the opportunity to offer them what they need to stay well, so that they can carry us through to the end of this pandemic,” said Maggie Hansen, Chief Nursing Executive.
Memorial Healthcare is hoping to vaccinate up to 1,200 frontline employees a day.
The vaccine won’t likely be available to the general public until the spring.