Seniors spurn city’s urging, line up early for COVID-19 vaccines

Mandarin, Lane Wiley senior centers offer first-come, first-served shots based on birth month

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Despite the city of Jacksonville urging people NOT to line up before 10 a.m. Tuesday, hundreds of people waited for hours outside the Mandarin and Lane Wiley Senior Centers to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The vaccine is available Tuesday to seniors, health care workers and first responders with birthdays in March or April.

Both Monday and Tuesday, hopeful seniors began lining up before dawn at the senior centers, which are vaccinating Duval County residents 65 years old and older and front-line medical workers not by appointment, but based on their birth month.

By daybreak Tuesday, the line snaked across the property with dozens of people spaced out 6 feet apart, wearing masks.

“We expected that there would be a long line so we wanted to be the first in line to get the vaccination,” said Arthur Llaga, a caregiver.

“With all my medical issues, I’d be dead if I got it, so would my husband,” said Terry Hill.

RELATED: County-by-county plans to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine

Hours before the doors opened, 78- year-old Ray Gardner also arrived with his lawn chair in tow.

“I plan on a few more miles on my feet so this is a good way to do it and it’s easy, it’s great, you can get out and walk early in the morning,” Gardner said.

On Monday, people started lining up at the Lane Wiley Senior Center on the Westside and the Mandarin Senior Center by 5 a.m. The scene was similar on Tuesday, as seniors ignored the city’s request to not show up before the center parking lot opened at 10 a.m. and were allowed to get in line early.

The city said Monday that they are learning as they go. They had said that starting Tuesday, they would not allow anyone to line up before 10 a.m. -- one hour before the doors open.

Only that’s not how things went early on.

“Unlike many other cities, we’re not going to be Draconian. I’m not going to have police officers physically removing people or turning senior citizens away,” Mayor Lenny Curry told The Morning Show on Tuesday. “The rule is don’t line up before 10 o’clock. It’s not necessary. However, those that are there and doing it are doing it in a safe way. I understand people are concerned that they’re not going to get it, but, again, we met all demand yesterday and we’re just going to continue to work with people.”

At one point, people were handed a ticket and told they could come back later in the day when the line would be shorter.

“They made it a lot easier by doing it this way and stuff so it’s good for everyone,” Pat Brennan said.

The city said there are nearly 1,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine available each day between both sites as its efforts continue to vaccinate the most vulnerable.

Curry emphasized that the supply is provided by the federal government to the state and then through the state to the city. He said their first allotment of doses was about 10,000 doses, and when those are all gone, the city will have to wait for more supply before giving out more vaccines.

“The reason we asked the state to allow us to do distributions is because we’ve demonstrated the ability to get things distributed to people during COVID-19 in a safe, efficient, responsible way,” Curry said.

Guidelines for vaccinations at senior centers

While vaccinations will be given on a first-come, first-served basis (no appointment necessary), eligible residents should only visit a vaccination site on the day associated with their birth month based on the following schedule:

  • Monday – January and February
  • Tuesday – March and April
  • Wednesday – May and June
  • Thursday – July and August
  • Friday – September and October
  • Saturday – November and December

These two vaccination sites will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays through Saturdays, although the line will be cut off at 6 p.m. or when they run out of the allocation for the day:

Maps of two senior centers offering COVID-19 vaccines.
Maps of two senior centers offering COVID-19 vaccines. (City of Jacksonville)

All patients must provide a photo ID that shows their birthdate and proves Duval County residency. First responders and health care workers should also bring a work badge.

Restrooms inside the senior centers will be available after the building opens for the day.

After receiving the vaccine, patients must stay on site for at least 15 minutes to be monitored for potential reactions by health care and emergency professionals. Based on medical history, some individuals may be required to wait 30 minutes. While allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine are rare, the city said, this safety measure is in place out of an abundance of caution. Patients will be able to opt in to receive email and text reminders about their second dose.

To assist with a safe and organized vaccination process, patients must adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Masks must be worn at all times.
  • Physical distancing requirements must be followed at all times.
  • Individuals who are feeling sick should not go to a vaccination site.
  • Only caretakers may accompany patients who require assistance to a vaccination site.
  • Patients must park in the designated parking areas; patients cannot be dropped off.
  • Parking and waiting in line overnight will not be permitted.
  • Patients should follow traffic patterns and instructions from traffic monitors (a map is available at JaxReady.com/Virus?).

Patients should print and bring a completed DOH Vaccine Screening and Consent Form to the vaccination site. The form is available at COJ.net/CovidVaccineForm.

Between the two sites, the city hopes to vaccinate just under 1,000 people each day with the Pfizer vaccine -- Mandarin will provide 500 vaccines a day, while up to 475 vaccines will be distributed at Lane Wiley, according to the city. When the daily supply has been depleted, remaining patients will have the option to return on their assigned day the following week or make an appointment with the Florida Department of Health for the Prime Osborn location.

Vaccinations are still being given by appointment at the Prime Osborn Convention Center, but the demand for appointments has exceeded supply -- which will likely continue for the near future. In response, the city announced last week that it was converting senior centers in Mandarin and on the Westside from COVID-19 testing sites to places to receive the vaccine.

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