MIAMI (CBSMiami) – On Wednesday, nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the state began offering coronavirus Pfizer vaccines to residents and staff, and Gov. Ron DeSantis said “this is only the start.”

John Knox Village, a retirement community in Pompano Beach, was among the first in Florida to offer vaccinations to its residents.

There are 90 residents and 80 staff who planned on getting vaccinated on Wednesday.

The vaccinations are voluntary and CBS4 has learned that nearly all residents are taking part.

Just as 88-year-old Vera Leip was about to be vaccinated with the Pfizer COVID vaccine, it was delayed until 1 p.m., apparently, so that Gov. DeSantis could be there.

Watch Gov. Ron DeSantis’ press conference in its entirety:


“I hope it will protect me from getting COVID,” said Vera.

Employee Wendy Cuy got vaccinated just after 10 a.m.

“It was very quick and painless. I feel blessed to get it done,” she said.

Those vaccinated got a state health department card certifying the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. They will get the second dose in three weeks.

Broward and Pinellas elder care facilities were the first to get the Pfizer vaccine, which requires extremely cold temperatures for transit. After delivery, it is stored in freezers before shots are given.

Between the two counties, 112 facilities are getting the vaccine. Additionally, six nursing homes in Miami-Dade are participating.

Gov. DeSantis says the COVID infection rate is rising in Florida’s long-term care facilities. As of Wednesday, FDOH numbers showed 2,000 longterm care residents tested positive for the virus statewide and 2,100 staff members.

Next week, the state plans to receive the Moderna vaccine, if the FDA approves. On top of that, the state now may get more vaccine from Pfizer this month, after a hiccup with the company’s mass production efforts.

“They’ve actually populated a shipment for next week. We don’t think it’s going to be 200,000 (doses), but we are encouraged by that. I don’t want to say that’s going to be final until we actually get it,” the governor said.

The governor says the plan is to keep taking care of frontline workers and those at long-term care facilities. But the vaccine may be available to seniors, 65 and older, statewide within weeks.

“As we get more Moderna is the future and more Pfizer, even perhaps in the last week of December, then we can start working on getting our elderly population, who are not in these facilities,” he said.

From the latest cases reported Tuesday, more than 400 people 65-years-old and older tested positive for the virus in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. That’s another reason there’s a push to protect the most vulnerable.

“As a nation, we need a lot of education. We need to help people understand the shared risk,” said Bill Pickhardt, Chief Operating Officer at John Knox Village.

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The National Guard arrived before sun up to begin preparing to administer the vaccines.

CBS4 has learned that they started defrosting the vaccines at 2 a.m. and that the National Guard came in with special freezers.

“This is only the start,” the governor said.

More vaccine will be delivered to long-term care facilities next week when pharmacists from CVS and Walgreens deliver the doses and give them to staff and residents.