JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Scores of people who made appointments to get the COVID-19 vaccine at the new Edward Waters College community site Friday morning were turned away because they had been allowed to preregister even though they didn’t meet the qualifications.
The medical staff that operates the site said its digital registration program allowed people to sign up without adequately prescreening for age. Currently in Florida, only people age 65 and above and health care workers are being prioritized for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Because of the error, dozens of people signed up through the online system, received a QR code confirmation, and were told to show up at the vaccine site and present that code to receive the vaccine. Agape Family Health Center’s staff told News4Jax the registration system didn’t notify people they were not of sufficient age or profession to qualify under current guidelines.
Gov. Ron DeSantis visited EWC on Thursday to announce a new COVID-19 vaccination site at the old James Weldon Johnson Middle School gym on the campus. The state-run site will offer 200 vaccinations a day, seven days a week, and will target residents of Northwest Jacksonville, DeSantis said.
Officials running the site encouraged people to register online, but people can also make an appointment in person.
Mia Jones, CEO of Agape, which is helping the state run the site, said residents in the New Town neighborhood will get priority. Registration will be based on ZIP code.
The site at the school was one of six COVID-19 vaccination sites that were opened Thursday to provide greater access to the vaccine in underserved populations in Broward, Duval, Leon, Miami-Dade and Osceola counties.
“This site is especially important for our seniors in Northwest Jacksonville and we are exceedingly pleased that EWC will continue its legacy as an impactful leading resource for all of our city’s citizens and particularly our New Town residents many of whom represent a demographic that has been disproportionately impacted by this horrific COVID-19 virus,” EWC President Dr. A. Zachary Faison Jr. said.
DeSantis said Thursday that the age for Florida residents who can receive the coronavirus vaccine will be lowered “sometime in March.”
“I’ve said from the beginning, we are going to lower the age, and as soon as we’re in a situation where the seniors are being taken care of, you know, we’re going to look to do that,” DeSantis said. “So it’s going to happen, I would say, without question, barring any problems with the vaccine distribution, you’re going to see the age lower at some time in March, for sure.”
The visit to Jacksonville comes just days after DeSantis announced that law enforcement and classroom teachers who are over 50 will have an opportunity to be vaccinated at federal sites opening in the state next week, including one in Jacksonville.
“We think we can do that given the additional vaccine without it impinging on the senior population,” DeSantis said.
Desantis pushed back Wednesday on criticism about his administration not laying out its priority group for the next phase of the vaccine rollout, unlike other states.
“If you notice, many of those folks adopted plans and then they’ve already had to change the plans. We have not done that. We looked at the recommendations from ACIP and CDC and we respectively rejected those and said we are putting our seniors first,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis said Wednesday his administration does not want to open up vaccinations to more groups and not have the supply available to meet the demand.
“We are going to do it based on the facts and circumstances on the ground. Based on the vaccine availability and based on the progress of getting through the 65 and older population,” DeSantis said.