University community members began receiving the first COVID-19 vaccinations at FIU on Wednesday.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava and the Florida Department of Health allocated 2,000 vaccines to the university. The vaccines are made by Moderna and are available to FIU health care faculty and staff with direct patient contact—and faculty, staff and students 65 and older.
"FIU is doing its part," says Dr. Eneida Roldan—CEO of the FIU HealthCare Network and clinical director for the newly opened FIU vaccination site and the Miami-Dade County COVID-19 testing site at the Fairgrounds adjacent to FIU. "We've got the preventative measures in place. We've got the screening, which is available to anyone at FIU who wants to get tested. And now we have the vaccines."
Nursing faculty member Charles Buscemi was the first to receive the vaccine at FIU.
"I'm overwhelmed with joy, with a sense of relief that I'm starting the road to feeling safe after the impact of a horrific pandemic. As a nurse of more than 30 years, I've seen a lot of things in my life, but I've never seen anything like this. My husband is vaccinated, so I feel our home is safer now. I have an immense sense of gratitude to the scientists who worked so hard to make this happen."
Buscemi, who is administering the vaccinations to other university community members today, adds: "I think people need to trust and believe in science and realize that, although this was quick, efficiency wasn't compromised, and they need to get vaccinated. This is a public health issue and this is for the safety of everybody."
Many who were vaccinated responded to the university-wide survey emailed to the FIU community last week.
Chemistry Professor Steve Winkle, also part of the first cohort to be vaccinated, says he is thankful for the opportunity.
“Now, I can go out to California and meet my granddaughter who was born in July!”
Anthony Bellantuono, a research assistant professor in biological sciences, interacts with the public as part of human studies. By getting vaccinated, Bellantuono, who was one of the first in line, says he’s doing his part.
“I’m completely thrilled to be a part of this and keep the university community safe,” he adds. “It’s a feat of science that we have this vaccine available to us this fast, and it’s safe. It’s just one tool to keep the community safe.”
Director of Employee Assistance Isabel Alfonsin-Vittoria, who was also vaccinated this morning, hopes the university community will follow her lead.
“The first course of action is to take action when you can," she says. "And I want to encourage others to take action.”
College of Medicine dean, Dr. Robert Sackstein, was one of the FIU health care professionals who volunteered to administer the vaccinations.
"This is one of the greatest community projects in the country right now—getting people vaccinated to hopefully stop this pandemic," Dr. Sackstein says. "This is really the essence of medicine. We have to step up and be on the front line when something goes wrong. My particular job these days puts me all too frequently in an office setting where I miss being with a patient—in a situation where I’m needed medically—so this for me is a real honor to be able to be where I should be as a doctor."
If you would like to receive the vaccine and are eligible based on current guidelines, please complete FIU’s COVID-19 interest survey. Your response to the survey will be used to coordinate scheduling. Please be sure your MyFIU portal has the most updated contact information for you.
On Thursday, Jan. 14, FIU will hold a town hall with some of the university's top health experts to discuss vaccines, testing and guidelines. RSVP here.