UPDATE: Our news partners at the Tampa Bay Times are now reporting that Governor DeSantis was incorrect when he said a nurse at Tampa General Hospital was the first person in Florida to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. According to the Times, that distinction actually belongs to the CEO of UF Health, who received the vaccine in Jacksonville.

Spectrum News is working to independently confirm this new information.


TAMPA, Fla. — A nurse in Tampa on Monday became the first person in Florida to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as Florida hospitals, including Tampa General and facilities in Central Florida, began receiving initial doses.

What You Need To Know

  • Gov. Ron DeSantis calls Monday vaccine developments a "game-changer"

  • Frontline health care workers are expected to get COVID-19 vaccine 1st

  • COVID-19 vaccine won't be available to general public until the spring

  • More coronavirus headlines

Tampa General and four other hospitals in the state will share about 97,000 initial doses of the vaccine. Frontline health care workers who treat COVID-19 patients will get it first.

The first vaccination for COVID-19 in Florida went into the arm of nurse Vanessa Arroyo, 31, in front of cameras Monday during a news conference with Gov. Ron DeSantis. Arroyo received the Pfizer vaccine.

The president and CEO at Tampa General said the hospital had the personnel, supplies, and procedures in place to distribute the vaccine as soon as it arrived. 

“This is truly a historic moment,” Tampa General President John Couris said at the news conference.

“This is 20,000 doses of hope. This is the beginning to the end. This is monumental if you’re sitting in our shoes," he said.

Nursing home “strike teams” will also be among the first to receive the vaccine. Long term care facilities have been an infection hot spot in the state, with more than 700 deaths to date.

DeSantis said Monday that he signed for the vaccines from FedEx and watched as they were loaded into freezers.

He said the hospitals will be a “beta test” for distribution across the rest of the state and added that Tampa General “leaned forward” during the pandemic to be one of the hospitals to receive vaccines.

DeSantis said CVS and Walgreens in Florida will soon receive 60,000 doses to distribute at long-term care facilities.

The state Health Department is conducting surveys to see which long term facilities need the vaccines the most.

The vaccine won’t likely be available to the general public until the spring.

Right now, people over the age of 65 with health issues are being prioritized for the second shipment of the vaccine early next year, along with first responders and essential workers, such as teachers and food distribution employees.

"This is a game-changer. It's a great a day for the United States and the state of Florida," DeSantis said.

Regulators also are expected to review Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine Friday. If it also receives approval, DeSantis said he expects doses of that vaccine to be available on about the same time schedule as the Pfizer vaccine, which was approved this past Friday.
The Moderna vaccine does not need to be kept as cold as the Pfizer vaccine.