JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – On Friday, River City Rehabilitation in Jacksonville became the first in the area to begin vaccinating residents under the Federal CDC Pharmacy Partnership.
Later in the day, the U.S. added a second COVID-19 vaccine to its arsenal, boosting efforts to beat back the outbreak.
About 80 people consented to getting the vaccine on Friday. On Thursday night, Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a tweet that things were running three days ahead of schedule — the Florida Healthcare Association wasn’t expecting he vaccine to begin arriving at Northeast Florida nursing home until at least Monday.
Angela Smith took a job as a receptionist at the nursing home at the start of the pandemic to be closer to her 86-year-old mother. She jumped at the chance to be vaccinated for the virus. Her mother also received the vaccine.
As of Friday in Florida, more than 7,000 long-term care residents and staff have died of COVID-19 related complications.
Kristen Knapp with the Florida Health Care Association said that next week, Florida will see more widespread vaccinations happen across the state through pharmacies.
“The pharmacies will come on-site, the facilities have space available to set up these on-site clinics,” Knapp explained. “It makes it much more streamlined and efficient because the residents are there. We’re able to get them vaccinated. The staff are there. We can get them vaccinated as well.”
After month of separation, Smith said she is eager for her mother to reconnect with her family.
“To me it means a lot to let my mom be able to see her sisters and my sister, who have a medical condition, who can’t see my mom, and her grandkids and her great-grandkids,” Smith said.
Baptist Health in Jacksonville said team remembers received the first 250 doses on Friday.
“This is a big day. This is a very exciting day,” said Kelly Guion, a nurse manager. “I was super excited to get my vaccine and start this journey towards getting us back to some type of normal.”
In Washington, Vice President Mike Pence and leaders of the House and Senate received their first doses of the vaccine as well.
“All of us have a role to play,” Pence said. “The way through this challenging time is vigilance and the vaccine.”
Florida educators want to be on the priority list. A union is urging DeSantis to make them part of the plan.
According to Knapp, both Walgreens and CVS have around 2,000 long-term care facilities across the state signed up to receive vaccines.