Jackson Memorial Hospital, Memorial Regional chosen to distribute COVID-19 vaccines; mayors urge Gov. DeSantis for leeway in reinstating restrictions

MIAMI GARDENS, FLA. (WSVN) - Jackson Memorial Hospital and Memorial Regional Hospital will soon be storing hope to those fighting the coronavirus, as they have been chosen to be some of the first hospitals in the state of Florida to distribute the vaccines.

Meanwhile, mayors across South Florida are asking Governor Ron DeSantis to allow them to reinstate some restrictions, such as the mask mandate.

The vaccine could possibly be in South Florida in December, which is when the hospitals will start to give the vaccines to healthcare workers and the most vulnerable.

“I think it gives us hope that things will turn for the better,” said Dr. Thomas Macaluso. “I mean, right now, things are pretty dire in other parts of the country, and they’re certainly concerning here.”

Memorial Regional Hospital and Jackson Memorial Hospital have been chosen some of five hospitals in the state to distribute the vaccines that could help end the pandemic.

Pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Pfizer are both on track to begin distribution of their vaccines next month.

“Our goal is to supply several hundred million of doses in the first four to five months of 2021,” said BioNTech CEO Uğur Şahin.

Macaluso said Memorial Regional is expecting to receive the Pfizer vaccine and adds the hospital is equipped to handle the medication, purchasing special freezers to store the drug, which the company confirms is now 95% effective.

“We have our plans for where we will administer and how. We have trained vaccinators,” he said.

But the roll out of the vaccine is still weeks away, and Dr. Macaluso says only 1 million Floridians will be able to receive the first doses.

DeSantis met with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to talk about the distribution of the vaccines.

“This initial distribution is considered Phase One in which limited supplies of vaccines available, that roadmap calls for administering the vaccines to critical infrastructure workers as well individuals who might be at high risk,” Macaluso said.

Meanwhile, mayors across South Florida are hoping for a little leeway from the governor in reinstating certain COVID-19 rules.

“It’s still a deadly disease that can kill people,” said City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.

With cases surging, they want the ability to put some restrictions back into place after the Governor took that power away.

“It is about time we mandated masks statewide,” said Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez.

“Give us the tools that we need to get to the vaccine with the fewest amounts of deaths and hospital visits,” said Miami Shores Mayor Crystal Wagar.

As the virus spreads, officials said their hands are tied thanks to an order issued by DeSantis that limits COVID-19 restrictions across the state.

As Florida braces for a third wave, they’re urging him to change course.

“It’s not about Republicans or Democrats. I’m a Republican and I’m the most conservative guy in the world, but we have to take care of our health and our businesses, and the best way to do that is by using that balance that right now is like, it’s just gonna go this way and hopefully it’ll work out,” Hernandez said.

So far this week, more than 28,000 Floridians have contracted the virus, and 87 new deaths were reported Wednesday.

These mayors believe if they can briefly tighten restrictions until vaccines are widely available, more lives can be saved.

“I hope that he can revisit these things and understand that we’re here to work with him, not against him,” said Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez.

Part of the mayors’ concern is that Thanksgiving is around the corner, and Christmas comes a month later. While people are being urged not to gather in large groups of families, the leaders know that will still happen, which is why they’re asking DeSantis to put the new protocols in place or allow local leaders to do so.

The governor’s office has not replied to 7News’ request for comment.

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