Jacksonville pharmacy offers COVID-19 vaccine in underserved area

Staff at Panama Pharmacy on North Main Street started giving out first dose of the Moderna vaccine to patients this week

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A small Jacksonville pharmacy is the first small business in Duval County to offer the COVID-19 vaccine to the general public.

Staff at Panama Pharmacy on North Main Street started giving out the first dose of the Moderna vaccine to patients this week. Other pharmacists will be offering it to the general public by appointment only starting Monday. The vaccines are reserved for residents 65 and older and healthcare workers, but there is a waitlist for anyone who wants the shot.

“I’m 85 and I really don’t need to get anything else,” Willie Mae Arnold said as she got her immunization Friday afternoon. “It wasn’t bad at all. It was easy.”

Willie Mae Arnold gets her vaccination.

Arnold is among more than 100 patients to get their first shot at Panama Pharmacy in Panama Park, a family-run business.

Owner and pharmacist Kevin Duane had been requesting access to the vaccine for more than a month. He got the green light from the health department last Monday and started getting Moderna supplies over the past few days.

“Lower income, traditionally, has been overlooked when it comes to big box stores and other developments,” Duane said, noting that many of his patients don’t have reliable transportation to get to the government-run sites. “It’s important to make sure people in our community don’t get overlooked.”

For some, it’s a way to avoid the long lines at federal sites. Donna Teston couldn’t get an appointment at Regency Square Mall’s vaccination location and was relieved to get one at her home pharmacy.

“I’m thrilled. I’m happy,” she said.

Dora Priester, 73, who doesn’t drive, said it’s much easier to get the immunization around the corner from her home.

“It was easy. Really easy. I didn’t feel a thing,” said Priester, whose husband was also vaccinated.

For now, Duane said pharmacists can vaccinate about 100 people a day, but they’re ready for more. He said his company could open a drive-thru clinic if needed.

“The more vaccines we get, we can absolutely scale up tomorrow to do 200, 300, 500 a day,” he said. “Absolutely I’m confident in our ability.”

Those wanting the vaccine cannot walk in to get it as there’s a limited number of doses and spaces. They can set up an appointment, if available, at: PanamaRx.com/covid.

In order to not waste extra doses at the end of the day, there is a waitlist available to anyone, even those who aren’t seniors or medical workers. That can be found at PanamaRx.com/list.

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