A peek inside the Gateway Mall FEMA vaccination site

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Federal officials on Monday gave the first public first look inside the temporary COVID-19 vaccination site at Gateway Mall.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency site, run by Navy personnel, can administer up to 2,000 does per day -- although the site has averaged about half of that since it opened Wednesday. The two satellite sites combined have the ability to give up to 1,000 shots per day.

Navy Capt. David Barrows explained how the medical team doesn’t waste a dose.

“There’s an expiration on the vial itself. We can’t go beyond that. Usually, these are about six months out. ... When it’s ready for use, it’s only good for six hours in the syringe at normal room temperature,” Barrows said. “We have no leftovers. That’s the key thing here. When we have enough patients, (we) open a vial and we don’t waste a single dose. We don’t have 50 vials and have 250 doses -- we only open what we need. We wait for the state to identify six candidates and we open ... the vial because most vials have six doses in them.”

People who received shots at the Gateway site said it took about 30 minutes from start to finish and described the process as very smooth.

People age 65 and older, teachers and school employees of any age, law enforcement officers and firefighters age 50 and older, and those with a doctor’s note saying they’re medically vulnerable are currently qualified to receive either the Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccine at the Gateway site.

“I’m around students all day long,” teacher Linda Crevatt said. “There are a lot of students out. I don’t want to bring it home to my parents. They’re elderly.”

You can make an appointment for a shot at the Gateway site, but it is not required. When you arrive, you’ll be asked a few brief questions in the registration tent, including which vaccine you want.

You’ll advance to a bigger tent, where you’ll sit down at a vaccination station to get the shot, and then move into a third tent, where you’ll wait 15 to 30 minutes to see if you have any reaction to the vaccine before you’re released.

“Very happy to get it,” teacher David Mann said. “It went very smoothly today.”

Florida Division of Emergency Management said it’s going door to door to get eligible people on Jacksonville’s Northside to go to the Gateway site before March 15 when the age requirement is expanded. Gov. Ron DeSantis said because demand amongst seniors and other eligible groups has “softened,” he decided to drop the age requirement to get the vaccine from 65 and older to 60 and older.

“There are not long lines right now. In a couple of weeks, when the age groups open up, will there be long lines? We don’t know. But now is the time, if you do qualify for a vaccine, now is the time because there is absolutely no wait,” said state Division of Emergency Management spokesperson Melissa Bujeda. “This site is temporary. Coming in, we knew it wasn’t going to be a permanent site. However, the longevity of the site we don’t know at this point.”

In Florida City, just south of Miami, vaccinations were opened up to Florida residents age 18 and older briefly over the weekend. News4Jax asked the Florida Division of Emergency Management if the state would do something similar in Jacksonville but had not received an answer as of Monday afternoon.

The Gateway site is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.

Vaccine qualifications by site

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