Frontline workers at a South Florida hospital have begun receiving their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, as health officials report more than 30,700 new cases of the virus in the state over the past two days.
Cameras captured healthcare employees at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood receiving their shot of the Pfizer vaccine, Saturday.
Among them was Dr. Kiesha Raphael.
“It’s time to put an end to this pandemic,” she said. “I got this shot today to honor all the people who lost their lives.”
Studies show receiving the second dose of the vaccine two weeks after the initial injection can make it up to 95% effective.
“I think as healthcare providers, we have to set an example for the community and demonstrate that this is a safe, effective vaccine,” said Dr. Randy Katz with Memorial Regional Hospital.
The second wave of vaccinations represent a new phase in the fight against the coronavirus.
“This is a light for us at the end of the tunnel to be able to get back to a new normal,” said Raphael.
The vaccinations take place one day after Fort Lauderdale officials announced they are preparing to transition one of their testing locations, at Holiday Park, into a vaccination site for people 65 and older by appointment only.
Officials hope to make the necessary changes by Tuesday.
“They’ll start with about 500 a day, and that’s intended so that in three weeks, those 500 can come back and get a second dose,” said Lagerbloom. “Eventually, we’ll work our way to 1,000 a day.”
The move comes not a moment too soon, as a new variant of COVID-19, known as B117, has now spread to Florida.
Officials on Thursday identified one case in Martin County.
Research shows the variant is anywhere from 10% to 70% more contagious, but experts said there is no need to panic.
“Happily, this virus does not cause more serious disease,” said Dr. Michael Farzan with Scripps Research Institute.
Doctors said people should still wear masks and practice social distancing after they are vaccinated. They also believe the vaccine is still effective against the B117 variant.
Meanwhile, visitors continue to travel to South Florida to celebrate the start of 2021.
“We came to celebrate the new year, ring in the new year in Miami,” said one visitor.
Over the two-day New Year’s holiday, the Florida Department of Health reported 30,767 new COVID-19 cases and 217 deaths.
As the holidays wrap up, there are growing concerns that the state could soon see another spike.
7News cameras captured long lines at local testing sites on Saturday, as people sat inside their vehicles waiting to get tested.
On Sunday, seniors signed up and lined up for the COVID-19 vaccine across Broward County.
Among those seniors is Sandra Dreyfus, who came for her vaccination appointment at Vista View Park in Davie. She said 2020 was a difficult and isolating year but hopes the vaccine will help get things back to normal.
“I’m really relieved that help is on the way,” Dreyfus said. “I miss my friends. I missed my family over the holidays. Yeah, it was hard.”
Health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, are asking people not to let their guards down, as they work to make the vaccine more widely available.
“We hope, as we get into January, February, March and into April, we’ll finally be there, so that the spring and the summer, we can really do a very good job of getting as many people as possible vaccinated,” said Fauci.
Fort Lauderdale officials have set up a website for people 65 and older to make an appointment to get the coronavirus vaccine at any of the four vaccination sites in Broward County.
Anyone with questions and concerns about the coronavirus can call the Florida Department of Health’s 24-hour hotline at 1-866-779-6121.
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