Team members identified as being at risk of COVID-19 exposure started receiving the coronavirus vaccine on Friday, December 18 at Orlando Health. The Florida-based health care system delivered the first shot at 7 a.m. during a clinic held at Orlando Health Orlando Regional Medical Center (Orlando Health ORMC), the system’s flagship hospital.

Approximately 1,400 team members received the free, voluntary vaccination by 12 noon at the clinic on Friday, which is scheduled to end at 7 pm. Designed to follow all guidance from state and federal health officials, another characteristic of this preliminary clinic was the upbeat atmosphere and noticeable excitement from staff receiving their shots.

Audrey Foster-Lewis, a nurse manager at Orlando Health ORMC, was one example. “I was thrilled by the news of the vaccine as it meant the end is now in sight. The past 10 months have been extremely difficult for us all and I hope as many persons as possible will be open to receiving this necessary vaccine,” Ms. Foster-Lewis said.

Orlando Health Covid-19 Vaccine
Orlando Health Covid-19 Vaccine
Orlando Health Covid-19 Vaccine

Team members also have the option to participate in a clinic that will be held on December 23 at Orlando Health South Lake Hospital. Both locations are using the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine.

“We are pleased to provide this initial round of vaccinations to individuals who face the highest risk of exposure to the virus,” said George Ralls, MD, chief medical officer, Orlando Health. “In addition to the Pfizer product, we expect the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to be approved within weeks, which – based on supply – should allow us to expand the vaccination program, eventually making the vaccine available to our entire workforce.”

High-risk groups are defined by Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) as clinical and non-clinical staff with direct patient contact with increased risk of COVID-19 exposure. Examples include intensive care units (ICU), COVID-19 care units, emergency departments, and personnel who handle infectious materials.

“As additional supply of vaccine becomes available, Orlando Health will move quickly to establish additional vaccination sites across our system,” adds Dr. Ralls. “Because the supply of COVID-19 vaccine remains unclear, specific dates for the opening of additional sites have not yet been determined.”

In addition to healthcare personnel, residents of long-term care facilities, including those at Orlando Health – Health Central Park and Orlando Health South Lake Hospital SkyTop View Rehabilitation Center, are included in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) highest priority groups. The CDC has partnered with Walgreens and CVS to provide vaccines to this population.