JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Starting next Wednesday, only second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will be available at federally supported sites in Jacksonville, including the Gateway Mall and its two satellite sites in Oceanway and Jacksonville Beach.
Tuesday, March 24, will be the last day for eligible individuals to receive a first dose from the federally supported sites of Jacksonville, Tampa, Orlando and Miami. There will only be two days left for newly qualified 50- to 60-year-olds to get vaccinated at Northeast Florida’s largest vaccination clinic.
The only exception: The state plans to offer the one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine during the last two weeks of operation.
Those seeking the first few doses will still be able to make appointments at retail pharmacies like Walmart and Publix, as well as state vaccination clinics like Regency Square Mall and Edward Waters College.
The federally supported sites were due to remain open for eight weeks and close on April 28, according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management. State officials say the operation may be expanded to meet growing demand.
“The state understands how critical these vaccination sites are to increasing access to vaccines for Floridians. The state is working closely with the federal government to assess whether these sites can remain open after April 28, “said a statement from the Florida Division of Emergency Management. “This operation can be scaled up based on a variety of factors, including but not limited to increased vaccine allocations and availability of resources.”
According to the Florida Division of Emergency Management, the Jacksonville FEMA satellite vaccine sites at Oceanway Community Center and the Carver Center in Jacksonville Beach will return to the Normandy Community Center and Hammond Senior Center for the next three weeks. State officials say they want people to be able to return to the site where they received their first dose for their second injection.
The end of the first doses at the Jacksonville FEMA sites is happening as Governor Ron Desantis is publicly discussing the total exemption from the age requirements for the COVID-19 vaccine. At a news conference on Friday, Governor Desantis said he will likely lower the age limit to 16 or older before May 1.
Federal locations in Jacksonville added more than 4,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine per day to the supply in Northeast Florida. The Gateway Mall alone is capable of vaccinating 3,000 people every day.
Federally supported sites in Jacksonville have yet to experience a single day where their daily dose allocation has been used.
Since March 3, the five state and federal sites in Jacksonville have only administered about 60 percent of the doses available to each other, on average, each day.
Incident Commander Ron Beesley said FEMA has dispatched hundreds of staff members to communities to not only inform them about the vaccination clinics, but also to provide transportation to the sites.
“We hope that the disclosure will move the needle in the near future. We see a change in our demographics, a positive movement in that part. But we continue to see that there is a lot of misinformation out there, ”Beesley said. “One is ‘they are going to chip me and track me down.’ That is 100% false. Another is ‘they are going to inject me with coronavirus’. That is also 100% false. “
Another hurdle has been the qualifying criteria for getting vaccinated in Florida, specifically age limits. As of Monday, only firefighters and sworn law enforcement over the age of 50, school personnel, medically vulnerable healthcare workers, and those over the age of 60 can receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Gateway vaccine site in Jacksonville created a reserve list several weeks ago for those who do not meet the criteria. People on the list will be called if an unused dose is drawn, but there is no one in line who meets the criteria. On Monday, the incident commander said an unused dose had not been drawn in six days.
“That list has over 300 at the moment and many of them don’t fit the criteria. So there is an interest outside the current criteria, ”Beesley said.
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