South Florida Health Experts Wait and Prepare for Covid Vaccine to Arrive

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In West Miami-Dade, workers from Baptist Hosptial have set up an area to accept and store the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, even though they aren’t at the front of the line.

“We have to be at least minus 70 to minus 80 degrees in our freezers,” said Madeline Camejo, the top pharmacist at Baptist Health, showing off the freezers that would hold the Pfizer vaccine when it’s their turn.

Jackson Memorial Hospital and Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood have been designated by the state as the first medical centers in South Florida to obtain the Pfizer vaccine.

When they could, health care workers in South Florida on Thursday tuned into an all important meeting of the FDA panel of independent experts who had an important question placed before them.

"Today we will be considering whether to make available to millions of Americans an as yet investigational vaccine that has been developed, tested and reviewed in record time," the FDA's Dr. Doran Fink said.

Florida International University infectious disease expert Dr. Aileen Marty said every aspect of the vaccine implementation is being looked at extremely carefully.

Marty also said that researchers revealed during the zoom meeting it appears more Americans have been exposed to COVID-19 than is on the official books.

"The CDC stresses the fact that the data we have on the number of people who have been infected is at least somewhere between two and seven times off, right, so there are two to seven times more cases that have been detected and similar numbers for the Covid deaths and that’s an important thing for people to realize," Marty said.

It's a reason experts say getting a safe vaccine to the public as soon as possible is paramount.

The FDA panel only makes a recommendation. The final decision is up to the FDA commissioner.

"So, it's not just a formality. We take this very seriously in terms of having transparency around our process. It's why we have outside experts because issues, medical and scientific issues could be raised that need to be addressed," FDA Chief Dr. Stephen Hahn said. "But again, we will make that final decision and I have complete confidence in our scientific reviewers and their assessment of the data."

About 1 to 2 million doses of the vaccine could be on their way to ultra cold refrigerators in a few days if Dr. Hahn gives the green light.

Marty said the Florida Heath Department has come up with a plan to get the vaccine into residents’ arms.

“Well, it’s not all worked out to the detail that we need but it’s very, very good that we do have a plan in place," Marty said. "I know the Jackson system, even the Baptist system have already developed their own, some plans, and they all plan to be very, very ethical, thoughtful of the rules that the advisory committees from the federal government are providing."

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