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Massive Jacksonville federal vaccination site takes shape

VIDEO: It took a day to set up a new federal vaccination at the Gateway Mall.
VIDEO: It took a day to set up a new federal vaccination at the Gateway Mall.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It took a day to set up a new federal vaccination site at the Gateway Mall.

Large air-conditioned tents were erected Monday and staff laid out the procedures they will follow as they administer 2,000 shots of the Pfizer vaccine daily. They will begin Wednesday.

The Gateway Mall site is one of four federal sites in Florida. There will also be sites in Tampa, Miami and Orlando.

The site on Norwood Avenue is being run by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the state and the military. 130 Navy staff will be handling the medical side of the operation and administering the shots seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Robert Spence of FEMA said Monday there are a number of ways people can get the shot.

“They can make an appointment at the state and we’re going to have teams out in the area canvassing and knocking on people’s doors or they can just show up,” Spence said. “And we will get them registered that way, too.”

Plus there will be two satellite sites, one in Northwest Jacksonville at the Hammond Senior Center and on the Westside at the Normandy Community Center on Lindsey Road across from Normandy Park.

There was no activity at either of the satellite sites Monday but those in charge said at each site 500 vaccines a day will be given to those who are eligible.

In addition to seniors that have been eligible for the vaccine, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday extended his executive order to include – school employees, police officers and firefighters who are 50 years old and older.

As people near the Gateway Mall watched the tents go up, some are still not sold on the vaccine.

“I am leery about it because it’s so quickly that it came out,” said Jessica Ragland.

Dr. Pauline Rolle of the Duval Department of Health addressed those concerns.

“I am way past my second dose at this point. I have not had any medical issues and I had major concerns because I have a history of severe allergic reactions and I carry an EpiPen but I’ve done well so I think it’s people hear these types of stories and they are less apprehensive about getting the vaccine and now it’s just an access issue,” Rolle said.

News4Jax also checked in Monday at Edward Waters College where 200 vaccine shots are available each day.

That site is designed for people who live in that Northwest Jacksonville community but people from across Jacksonville have been taking advantage of it.

Staff running the site told News4Jax that they are not going to turn eligible people away. Some shots were administered again on Monday to some people who did not meet the age requirements.

A spokesman for the site said it did happen and they are working to tighten up procedures and follow the governor’s guidelines.

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.