JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Several teachers and a few law enforcement officers lined up in the rain early Wednesday to be among the first to get a COVID-19 vaccine at the new federally-run site at Gateway Mall in Jacksonville. Hundreds of people got shots at the new site in the parking lot of the mall on Norwood Avenue just off Interstate 95. It can vaccinate 2,000 people with Pfizer shot.
“Very efficient,” said Sandy Medlock, a heath care worker. “They have everything lined up. They ask you a question, direct you into a line. Once you get the vaccine, they have you sit six feet apart.”
All day, people could walk right in. A line began to form after 5 p.m. and grew in until the site closed at 7 p.m.
An additional 1,000 people can get the shot daily at two satellite sites -- the Hammond Senior Center in Northwest Jacksonville and the Normandy Community Center the Westside -- also run by FEMA. Those also seem to run smoothly on their opening day.
“This will help me be more of an effective teacher because I will be more relaxed in the classroom because I’ve had the vaccine and I’m taking as many precautions as possible,” teacher Joy Schreck said as she left one of the satellite centers.
In addition to the new sites, new guidelines ordered by Gov. Ron DeSantis began Wednesday to give school employees, law enforcement personnel and firefighters age 50 and above and those with a doctor’s note that they are extremely vulnerable to complications from the virus. These people are added to those over 65 years old and any health care worker with direct patient contact who have qualified to get vaccines since the beginning of the year.
“We kept checking with Winn-Dixie (and) Publix. They were booked,” Mary Billings said. “Come down and get it. This will be the best place.”
The new site is federally run and supported by FEMA and the military. It’s one of four federally-backed sites now open in Florida.
People are encouraged to register for the shots online (myvaccine.fl.gov) or by phone (866-200-3762), but it’s not necessary. People can walk right in.
The Gateway site is expected to be active for at least 60 days, although the satellite sites are expected to relocate every seven to 10 days.