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With 1st COVID-19 vaccinations at UF Health in Villages and Leesburg, ‘science basically wins today’

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Pharmacist Erika Jasper administers the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to Dr. Elias Maroun. Photo: Joe Byrnes

It was an exciting moment for the head of the Covid Team at the UF Health hospitals in Leesburg and The Villages.

Dr. Elias Maroun was the first staff member to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

You couldn’t see his smile after getting the shot — because Dr. Maroun was wearing a mask — but you could hear it in his voice.

It’s a very emotional moment,” he said. “Like, this is what I train for. This is why I went to medical school. This is why I went into infectious disease. And this is why I love science. And today it’s a big step. And science basically wins today.”

UF Health Central Florida began with six staff members and by Sunday expects to vaccinate 500 people with the first of two doses.

Maroun says they’re vaccinating medical workers using a tiered system based on their risk of exposure to COVID-19.

It’s a big step and will make the medical workers feel more comfortable.

But it is not the end yet, he says, and for now, even those who are vaccinated must keep wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing.

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Joe Byrnes

About Joe Byrnes


Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.