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The Florida Roundup
The Florida Roundup is a live, weekly call-in show with a distinct focus on the issues affecting Floridians. Each Friday at noon, listeners can engage in the conversation with journalists, newsmakers and other Floridians about change, policy and the future of our lives in the sunshine state.Join our hosts, veteran journalists from our partner public radio stations: WLRN’s Tom Hudson, broadcasting from Miami and WJCT’s Melissa Ross, broadcasting from Jacksonville.

Moderna Vaccine Heads To Florida As COVID-19 Numbers Jump Higher

Close-up of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine vials
Pinellas County Department of Health
Vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are prepared for distribution in Pinellas County on Dec. 16, 2020. It will soon be joined by a vaccine from Moderna.

Florida continues to see increasing infections and deaths as the second COVID-19 vaccine heads to the state.

The Moderna vaccine is on its way to Florida. According to the initial distribution plan the state released this week, pending emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Florida is preparing to receive 367,000 doses Christmas week.

The Moderna vaccine will be the second FDA-approved coronavirus vaccine after Pfizer-BioNTech. Both vaccines use the same technology and require two doses, but the Moderna vaccine can be stored in a regular freezer. Doses of the Moderna vaccine will be distributed to 173 hospital locations that did not receive doses of the Pfizer vaccine earlier this week. The list spans 43 counties around the state.

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Florida’s Department of Health confirmed on Friday an additional 13,000 additional COVID-19 cases, marking the second consecutive day the state’s daily case count reflects numbers not seen since the spike in mid-July, according to the Florida Department of Health.

On the Florida Roundup, host Melissa Ross spoke with Dr. Jason Wilson, associate director of Tampa General Hospital’s emergency department about his experience with the Pfizer vaccine.

Here’s an excerpt of the conversation.

Melissa Ross: It sounds like the Moderna vaccine is getting far-wider distribution than the Pfizer product that just went to five Florida hospitals, and is that due to the fact that the Pfizer vaccine requires super cold temperatures?

JASON WILSON: Both the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines are what we call mRNA vaccines, so exciting new vaccine technology that allows for RNA to go into the cell and basically act as an instruction book. We're just creating more and more of the spike proteins to make antibodies against. So similar in that way.

But, like you mentioned, different in the storage and production. Moderna spent a lot of time the past couple of years thinking about how to get their mRNA to store at an easier, kind of logistically, get to temperature, whereas the Pfizer ones are a research-level temperature of negative 70 degrees Celsius. But overall, we're just happy that the mRNA vaccine is rolling throughout Florida.

Ross: Absolutely, it's rated as 95 percent effective. That's my understanding, with relatively few adverse reactions and side effects. Tell us a little bit more about how people have been responding to the shot.

WILSON: I got my shot on Tuesday, and really things have gone very well, and I'm still here talking to you. A couple of doctor friends and nurse friends of mine who also got their shots and, you know, just talking to everybody.

Things have been going very well. Most of us have complained, you know, about the same things we get from a flu shot or a tetanus shot. I did have some soreness in my arm the next day. But after 48 hours, everyone was doing much better — a couple of people who’ve had COVID-19 before maybe had a little bit more soreness, and maybe some muscle soreness throughout the body as well. But again, everybody was better at 48 hours. And this seems to mimic really well with what we're seeing from the published data in the New England Journal of Medicine article on Dec. 10 for the Pfizer vaccine.

And the Moderna data was released by the FDA. We expected about 85 percent of people are going to have some soreness at the injection site. But really overall, we should expect very few side effects. Now, the Pfizer vaccine, we have two, maybe three allergic reactions, severe allergic reactions. But when you consider the whole world is watching, and there are thousands and thousands of people getting vaccines into their arms right now, that's a pretty low number of side effects so far. So I think what we're seeing, the real world is really affirming what we saw in the studies thus far.

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