GAINESVILLE, Fla. – One of North Florida’s most recognizable stadiums has changed from filling with fans for Gator games to one of the area’s largest COVID-19 vaccination sites.
On Friday, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium -- known popularly as “The Swamp” -- was being used for a COVID-19 vaccine “blitz.” Around 1,100 senior citizens were vaccinated there.
Josette Bishop had been trying for weeks to get her COVID-19 vaccine but had no luck getting an appointment. Friday, the 87 year old got her first shot at immunity.
“It’s very important, especially at my age,” she said.
UF Health and the Alachua County Health Department are teaming up for the mass vaccine event for Alachua County residents age 65 and older.
Officials said they chose Ben Hill Griffin stadium because it’s big, just about everyone in the area knows where it is and it’s fairly easy to access. Friday’s event was essentially a pilot program where they got people in to get their shots.
They hope as more supply comes in that they can do mass vaccination events like this again and again.
“We’re actually planning next week’s clinic in anticipation of getting more vaccine, but we’re really excited that we’re going to get this many done,” said UF Health’s Michael Lauzardo.
The goal is as many as 3,000 shots a day. There are plenty of volunteers to help; UF medical, pharmacy and nursing students are part of the process.
“I’m so relieved. I can’t believe it. I’ve been waiting so long,” said 84-year-old Patricia Monticino, a resident of the rural town of Hawthorne.
For her, it’s a chance to see her loved ones again.
“It means I can be with my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren,” she said.
There are other sites available -- one in the southwest part of the UF campus on Hull Road and another at Mt. Moriah Baptist Church on Gainesville’s Eastside. For more information, contact the Alachua County Health Department.
Appointments, when available, can be found by clicking here or by calling 352-334-7900.
Lauzardo said the team is also using churches and other community groups to reach out to seniors who may have trouble getting vaccine appointments.