JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After some mixed messages Thursday that led to some confusion for younger teachers, the deputy director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management cleared the air and said the federally supported site at the Gateway Mall that opened Wednesday will be complying with the federal directive -- meaning teachers and school employees of all ages can get COVID-19 vaccines there.
“Because of the federal directive, this site at Gateway will take teachers, school workers, early childhood, pre-K, of all ages at this site,” said Kevin Guthrie, deputy director/SERT Chief. “So, again, pre-K through K-12, Head Start programs, child care centers, day care centers, and so on -- that site, the federal site, will do that. It is a federal site, and they are complying with the federal directive.”
CVS, Walmart and Publix are also vaccinating teachers of any age at pharmacies around the state, citing the federal guidelines.
Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order limits COVID-19 vaccines to teachers, school employees, law enforcement and firefighters age 50 and older in Florida, and that is the rule that applies at state-run sites like the one at the Regency Mall.
You will need to bring your ID proving where you work, that’s including firefighters and sworn law enforcement officers.
“The federal government is the one sending us the vaccine. If they want it to be for all ages, they have the ability to do that, so the pharmacies are obviously going to accommodate that, these sites will accommodate that, but our No. 1 goal right now is to get through the senior population,” DeSantis said during a news conference Thursday morning. “Our view is, if you’re 25, you’re just at less risk than somebody that’s 80. That’s just the bottom line. 95.7% of all COVID-related mortality has been above the age of 50, so the age-based approach, we think, is the most effective to reduce mortality.”
DeSantis said Florida is still anticipating the delivery of 175,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson one-dose COVID-19 vaccine.
He said an announcement will be coming soon on a distribution plan for the newly approved vaccine, but DeSantis said his administration is working with law enforcement, firefighter and teacher groups about possibly getting the J&J vaccine to those age 50 and up in their professions.
“I think it’s a very effective way to go in, vaccinate a lot of people. You could even go on site to some of these place. You do one shot and then you don’t have to worry about it,” DeSantis said. “We think that that has an opportunity to really do well, particularly for people who are under 65, particularly for people who are still in the workforce.”
DeSantis said demand was “tepid” on the first day that the four federal vaccination sites opened around the state on Wednesday, including the one in Jacksonville. He said of a total of 12,000 possible shots, about 6,500 were administered.
Hundreds of people got shots at the new site in the parking lot of the Jacksonville mall on Norwood Avenue just off Interstate 95. It can vaccinate 2,000 people daily with the Pfizer shot.
An additional 1,000 people can get the shot daily at two satellite sites -- Hammond Senior Center in Northwest Jacksonville and Normandy Community Center on the Westside -- also run by FEMA. Those also seemed to run smoothly on their opening day.
By the end of the day Thursday, about 840 vaccinations had been administered at the Gateway Mall site, approximately 29 were administered at Hammond Senior Center and approximately 150 were given at Normandy Community Center.
The Gateway Mall site is expected to be active for at least 60 days, although the satellite sites are expected to relocate every seven to 10 days.
The two satellite sites will operate from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, while the main hub facility at Gateway Mall will operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.
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.
Duval County Public Schools sent out an email Thursday night, saying that in addition to the Gateway Mall site at 5200 Norwood Ave., all pre-K-12 employees are eligible to get the vaccine at the Agape Family Health site at Edward Waters College. That site is located at 1840 West 9th Street and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Appointments can be made online.