Brevard County residents got a welcome Christmas present when the first doses of Covid-19 vaccines arrived at local hospitals and health-care facilities, according to officials from the Florida Department of Health.

On Dec. 14, Florida received 179,400 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Frontline health care workers who deal with COVID-19 patients and nursing home residents were the first to get vaccinated. The next group of people to receive the vaccine include first responders, law enforcement officers and essential employees, such as teachers and staffers with Brevard Public Schools.

The initial distribution breakdown was:

  • 97,500 doses went to the five hospitals chosen in advance because they have subfreezing cold storage containers to store the vaccine at 80 degrees below centigrade. Those hospitals are in Jacksonville, Miami, Hollywood, Tampa and Orlando.
  • 60,450 doses went to CVS and Walgreens for use in long-term care facilities.
  • 21,450 doses went directly to the Florida Department of Health, which deployed strike teams with the Florida National Guard and Emergency Management to deliver to long-term care facilities in Broward and Pinellas counties.

On Dec. 17, the state announced it was receiving 367,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine. Unlike the Pfizer vaccine that arrived in mid-December, the Moderna vaccine does not require super-cold storage, making it accessible to more health-care facilities.

The state distributed the Moderna vaccine to 173 hospitals that did not receive doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The county hospitals receiving the vaccine include:

  • Holmes Regional Medical Center
  • Cape Canaveral Hospital
  • Kindred Hospital Melbourne
  • Melbourne Regional Medical Center
  • Palm Bay Hospital
  • Parrish Medical Center
  • Rockledge Regional Medical Center
  • Viera Hospital

The Moderna vaccine is administered in two separate doses 28 days apart, while the Pfizer vaccine requires two injections given 21 days apart.

Anita Stremmel, assistant director of the Brevard County Health Department, said Walgreens and CVS pharmacies have been contracted by the federal government to distribute the vaccines to long-term care facilities and the more than 21,000 strike team members that assist in those health-care facilities under a different program that began Dec. 21.

Health First, the county’s largest health system, has two freezers capable of storing the Pfizer vaccine. Two more freezers are expected to be delivered this month, allowing Health First to administer the Pfizer vaccine at all four of its hospitals: Holmes Regional Medical Center, Cape Canaveral, Palm Bay and Viera.

OMNI Healthcare received between 2,000 and 3,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine Dec. 23, said OMNI Healthcare Chief Medical Officer Dr. Craig Deligdish. Those eligible to receive the vaccine include those older than 65 and people over 50 with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or cancer.

In April 2020, OMNI Healthcare created a drive-through testing site with more than 2,000 people each day getting tested.

With 40,000 people tested in the county, Deligdish said they will use the same format for administering the shots.

“We are prepared to do it again by vaccinating as many as 2,000 people per day at several sites throughout Brevard County,” he said. “We also have the ability to store the vaccine at -81 and -20. I think we should have sufficient vaccines within two to four weeks.”

To sign up and be placed on a list to receive notifications regarding the vaccine, call OMNI’s COVID-19 Center at 321-802-5515.

The federal government is covering the cost of the vaccines. Health insurance pays for the administration of the vaccine, and the government will cover the administrative costs for those without insurance.

Common side effects of the vaccines include pain and swelling at the injection site. Other side effects include fever, chills, tiredness and headaches. Such side effects are indications that the vaccine is working and generally pass within a few days, health officials report.