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First veterans in Tampa Bay area get COVID vaccines as supplies expand in Florida

Bradenton Herald - 12/24/2020

Dec. 24—MANATEE — Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, which operates seven veterans outpatient clinics, including clinics in Bradenton and Sarasota, this week vaccinated its first veteran against COVID-19.

William German, 95, a Navy veteran, and six other residents of the Community Living Center on the Bay Pines campus in Pinellas County were the first local VA patients to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

"Bay Pines VA Healthcare System team is eager to continue vaccinating our healthcare personnel and our veterans living in our Community Living Center," Paul Russo, CEO of the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, said statement. "As vaccine supplies increase, we will be offering COVID-19 vaccination to all veterans and employees who want to be vaccinated."

Bay Pines VA Healthcare System was one of 15 VA facilities that received an allocation of vaccine the week. Bay Pines is also one of 113 VA Medical Centers across the country to receive the first limited supply of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Sites were identified based on need for the vaccine, according to the CDC's prioritization and capacity to store the vaccine at ultra-freezing temperatures.

Anna Hancock, Bay Pines public affairs officer, confirmed Thursday that the Bay Pines VA facility in Lee County has also been supplied with the new vaccine. Distribution of the vaccine is based on CDC guidelines, she said, adding that Bradenton and the other VA outpatient clinics do not yet have the vaccine.

Manatee County is home to 32,335 veterans, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration stated that in clinical trials the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 disease. The vaccine is administered as a series of two doses, 21 days apart. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine was 94 percent effective in clinical trials in preventing COVID-19 disease. The vaccine is administered in two doses, 28 days apart.

Even after receiving COVID-19 vaccination, employees and veterans should continue wearing face coverings, practicing physical distancing and washing hands often, the VA said.

Veterans can get up-to-date information on VA's VA COVID-19 vaccine webpage.

All three of the Bradenton area hospitals, Manatee Memorial Hospital, Lakewood Ranch Medical Center and Blake Medical Center, as well as Sarasota Memorial Hospital, began inoculating their healthcare workers this week.

In addition, more than 200 front-line healthcare workers received COVID-19 vaccines in Manatee County on Tuesday outside the emergency management center.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis this week issued executive order 20-315, identifying those who are the first priority for receiving the COVID-19 vaccine: long-term care facility residents and staff, persons 65 years of age and older, and healthcare personnel with direct patient contact.

To date, there has been no information about when or where vaccinations for seniors might start in the Bradenton area.


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