With the arrival of a second vaccine in South Florida, more health care workers at local hospitals are set to get vaccinated.
However, many health care providers who don’t work at hospitals, but are still on the frontlines, are struggling to get their shot.
“I feel just so excited. A little sore arm and that’s okay,” said Palm Beach County pediatrician Dr. Hila Beckerman.
She’s breathing a sigh of relief Monday. She finally got her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale.
“As pediatricians, my colleagues and I, we get coughed on constantly. The kids are not good at keeping on their masks," Beckerman said. "We are definitely frontline workers and very high risk because you don't know who’s got COVID, who’s got allergies. You don’t know who has what."
Beckerman is in private practice and providing her own PPE. She’s doing home visits to immunocompromised kids and is now doing rapid testing.
But since she’s not affiliated with a local hospital, she struggled to find a COVID vaccine.
“I've been calling the Department of Health daily. Where are the vaccines? How can I get it? How can I protect myself?” she said. “We're the frontliners. We're seeing all these patients that are going to go to the hospital later, if they need it, and we have no access to get the COVID vaccine.”
This is until Holy Cross Hospital opened up its surplus of vaccines to qualifying health care workers outside its own system.
“It’s been such a savior for us to have a place to go,” Beckerman said.
The gratitude is also echoed by Oakland Park Fire Chief Stephen Krivjanik.
“This is a godsend,” Krivjanik said. “This is an outreach to first responder communities.”
He says his firefighters are licensed health care providers. However, up until Holy Cross reached out, he says fire departments have also been struggling to get vaccinated.
“Understand how essential it is. We're the first ones that see these patients,” Krivjanik said. “We transported four yesterday. I mean it’s every day. So for us not to be protected correctly is shameful. But luckly things started working out.”
NBC 6 has reached out to several local hospitals. So far, Holy Cross is the only hospital we’ve found that is starting to distribute the vaccine to qualifying health care workers outside its own system.
“When we finished with our employees and related colleagues, then we still have [the] vaccine in the freezer. The mandate is not to move to the next phase,” said Dr. Eduardo Locatelli, the Chief Medical Officer at Holy Cross. “The mandate by the state was, help us out with the people in the 1a category, which is health care workers, EMS personnel firefighters that are not affiliated with Holy Cross.”
Holy Cross has about 2,000 doses of the vaccine left and plans to distribute it to workers who fall into the Tier 1a group over the next three days. However, you will have to provide proof that you’re eligible.
Chief Krivjanik said starting Tuesday the Health Department will begin giving out vaccines to firefighters at a park in Lauderhill. We reached out to the Health Department for more information but are still waiting to hear back.