MIAMI(CBSMiami) —- The Jackson Health System is now offering a 3rd dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to the 13,000 employees of its 7 hospitals.

Doctors say the FDA now says you no longer have to separate the shots by a 2-week period. The booster shots are being given out at Jackson Memorial Hospital and Jackson South, North and West.

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Alix Zacaharski, the Nurse Manager of the COVID ICU unit, told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that, “This is important because we know the virus has mutated.”

Zacharski and Dr. Lilian Abbo, the Chief of Infection Prevention at JMH and Venessa Goodnow, the Chief Pharmacy Officer, all received their booster shots and their flu shots at the same time.

Dr. Abbo said, “Initially, the FDA said there has to be a 2 week separation but that no longer applies. I think it’s very important with those who are at risk and health care workers to get both vaccines and I strongly encourage it. I really suggest that pregnant women and populations at high risk and anyone who meets the criteria for the booster including health care workers consider getting both the booster and the flu shot.”

Goodnow said, “It was so important for me to get vaccinated to make sure I am protecting my co-workers and decreasing their ability to get exposed to COVID and also protect myself.”

Goodnow said, “It is not just a personal choice but it is a choice you are making for your entire community. It is very important to get vaccinated. There have been very few side effects from the vaccinations so with the vaccinations you are protecting yourself and your community and keeping yourself out of the ICU. It is an answer to making sure there are not any more deaths related to COVID.”

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The program will run through the end of the week but that may be extended. While the Jackson Health System inoculated 175,000 people with vaccines over a 5-month period this year, there are no plans to give the public booster shots.

Booster shots are given 6 months after the 2nd dose of the vaccine and health care workers, those 65 and older or immuno-Compromised are among those eligible. The Jackson Health System was among the first hospital systems in the state to give its employees Pfizer vaccines starting in mid December of last year.

On Tuesday, CBS4 went inside a room at Jackson Memorial Hospital that was packed with people receiving booster shots.

JMH Physical therapist Sharon Eisenberg said “I am very excited about getting the shot. I have a 90-year-old mother and when I leave here from work I will feel comfortable about being with her.”

Health Services Representative Eva Gonzalez said “This is really important for our families and for ourselves and for the community. We all need to be safe and be prepared for this disease. This is not like some other countries where we don’t have this protection and we should now get protected.”

28-year-old nurse Andrea Patino said “This is not just about keeping myself safe but this is for my loved ones. I am around my parents constantly and I want to protect my family. I work on a COVID floor so for me this is really important. The numbers are going up and down and so just for a precaution, for safety, I don’t want to get sick and stay home. I love what I do.”
D’Oench asked, “How stressful has this been?”

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”You have no idea,” she said. “This has been crazy. It’s been, i couldn’t imagine this kind of stuff we are doing and we are seeing. At least for me I try to stay safe and I try to disconnect when I go home a little bit. I did get the virus but I was mostly asymptomatic and I stayed home and I read but there are no guarantees because you never know and I don’t want to get reinfected and I just want to be safe.”

Peter D'Oench