TAMPA, Fla. – As Florida continues to roll out coronavirus vaccines, some health experts who were among the first to receive shots are taking baby steps back toward regular life.
Ten from across the state spoke with the Tampa Bay Times about how they’ve changed their habits since vaccination. They specialize in infectious diseases, public health and epidemiology. One is at the forefront of the effort to make the state’s vaccine distribution equitable. Another is head of operations at Tampa Greyhound Track, where thousands of doses are administered each day.
Here’s what they had to say about their own experience with the vaccines:
Immunologist, University of South Florida
Teng, 53, got his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine produced by Pfizer-BioNTech on March 20 at the Tampa Greyhound Track. That was before the state’s eligibility age for shots lowered to 50, so he brought along one of the state’s vulnerability forms signed by his doctor.
It was quick and easy, he said, and he didn’t experience any side effects. Once he gets a second shot in a couple weeks, Teng plans to travel to Chicago to see his elderly parents, who also have been vaccinated. He hasn’t seen them since Christmas 2019. They canceled holiday plans, as well as trips to various national parks last year because of the pandemic, he said.
Otherwise, Teng is looking forward to gathering again with fellow faculty members at USF for in-person meetings. It’s been a challenge to communicate education goals via video conference, he said.
“There’s a lot of stress that having a vaccine takes away,” Teng said. “There’s a release … because we have been stressed out for a year, trying to be as careful as possible. This is really getting to the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Dr. Allison F. Messina