40% of vaccine doses available at federal, state sites in Jacksonville since early March haven’t been administered

State officials have pushed back on any assumptions that the doses are being thrown away or wasted

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For the last several weeks, Jacksonville has been able to vaccinate more than 6,000 people a day at federal and state vaccine locations. The number does not even include retail pharmacies, like Publix and Walmart.

But state data shows that since the beginning of March, the five federal and state vaccine locations in Jacksonville have administered 60% of the doses available to them, on average, each day.

Shortly before 11 a.m. Wednesday, there were five people lined up outside of the federal vaccine satellite site at Oceanway Community Center. The popup vaccination clinic relocated to Oceanway over the weekend.

Shechinah Gee was one of the people in the line. Gee works at an Amazon fulfillment center in Jacksonville. She does not match any of the criteria in the governor’s executive order to get a shot but has already tried before with no luck. On Wednesday, she was turned down again.

“It’s fear every day when I go to work, when I go to the store, I think everyone is in a rush right now to get this vaccine … so we can get back to our everyday life,” said Gee. “I feel like the age range should definitely be for the people who go to work every day.”

In turning Gee away, the Oceanway site is following the governor’s executive order to only vaccinate teachers, firefighters and sworn law enforcement age 50 and older, health care workers, the medically vulnerable, and people age 60 and up.

But, so far, the Oceanway site — and many others — have not administered anywhere close to how many doses that they actually allocated to them.

Since the satellite site opened Sunday at Oceanway Community Center, it has not administered half of the 500 shots it can give each day. On Tuesday, it administered 163 doses.

It’s not just there. Since March 3, the five federal and state sites in Jacksonville have administered 60% of the doses available between them, on average, each day, according to data from the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

On Tuesday, the largest vaccination site in Jacksonville, located at Gateway Mall, administered nearly 1,400 of its 3,000 available doses. On its best day since opening, March 11, the site administered 2,228 doses.

Edward Waters College, a site that is being allocated 500 vaccines a day by the state, administered 77 shots total on Tuesday.

Residents who do not meet the criteria in the governor’s executive order and people from out of state have lined up outside the site at the historically Black college in hopes of getting a shot. When News4Jax was at the site last week, a worker came out just before the site planned to closed and started speaking to people in the line, asking if any were Florida residents. He told people in line that if no one showed up needing a vaccine before 5 p.m., the site would take the first nine people in line and give them a dose.

The CEO of the company assisting the state in running the vaccine location at EWC does have plans to bring 500 vaccine doses to seniors at one of the Jacksonville Housing Authorities properties on Friday.

The state vaccine site at Regency Square Mall in Jacksonville has managed to administer close to its capacity of 2,000 shot a day, every day, since March 3. The site has been administering second doses since Feb. 10.

While 40% of doses allocated to the five federal and state sites in Jacksonville have not been given out, state officials have pushed back on any assumptions that the doses are being thrown away or wasted.

Navy Capt. David Barrows, who leads the team administering shots at Gateway Mall, said March 8 that the site only pulls shots for people they physically see in front of them.

“When it’s ready for use, it’s only good for six hours in the syringe at normal room temperature,” Barrows said. “We have no leftovers. That is the key thing here. When we have enough patients, (we) open a vial and we do not waste a single dose. We do not have 50 vials and have 250 doses — we only open what we need. We wait for the state to identify six candidates and we open the vial.”

Aceta Michele Carter, 55, was also turned away Wednesday morning from the Oceanway Community Center. Carter said she works with children with special needs but doesn’t work for a school system.

“I feel like anybody over 50 who shows up wanting to do it should be allowed to do it. It took me all last week to decide to do this,” said Carter. “Right now, I am afraid to interact with [her students] and I don’t want them over at my house. I am not even meeting them at the library anymore for my volunteering because I just had a classmate die over the weekend from COVID.”

During a news conference Wednesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he plans to lower the age criteria to get the vaccine to 55 sometime in March but did not elaborate on when the age requirement will be waived entirely. DeSantis previously said vaccinations could expand to all Floridians by April.

About the Author: