Miami hospital preparing for COVID-19 vaccine distribution

Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami will be among the first to receive Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine. CBS News was granted rare access into the hospital’s COVID-19 ward and the extremely cold freezer where the vaccine will be stored.

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Health care workers, like those at this hospital, were the first to battle the deadly virus — and now, they’re part of the first wave to be vaccinated against it. They have seen more than 600 people die from COVID-19 since March, four of whom were coworkers.

Head nurse Alix Zacharski runs the medical intensive care unit, treating the sickest COVID-19 patients.

“There are days that are really hard,” she told CBS News. “You see that one or two, three patients die in the same day, or through the night, it just hit us.”

The Jackson Hospital System is preparing to get the Pfizer vaccine, with Florida reportedly getting 1 million doses. Pfizer’s vaccine has to be stored in ultra-cold freezers that stay at 94 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, and must be used within six hours of being removed from the cold.

Manuel Ubieta, 55, spent nearly two weeks fighting for his life in the COVID intensive care unit.

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“I haven’t seen my wife in two weeks,” he said. “It’s been rough.”

Ubieta, a Doral police officer, asked his brother to watch over his wife of 30 years when he was at his worst.

“If that vaccine helps everybody, get the shot,” he said. “You don’t want to end up like me.”

Jackson Memorial is one of five hospitals in Florida that will be administering the vaccine. While they’ve been told it may not arrive there until mid-December, the hospital’s chief pharmacy officer told CBS News they would be ready to go tomorrow if they had to.

© 2020 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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