30,000 vaccinations administered at FEMA sites in Jacksonville

Weather forces sites to close early Thursday, will reopen Friday

State officials hope increased outreach will increase vaccination rates.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – State officials announced Thursday morning that the three FEMA-sponsored sites in Jacksonville, which includes Gateway Mall and two satellite sites, hit a milestone. The sites have collectively vaccinated 30,000 people since March 3.

But a News4Jax analysis found that since the sites opened March 3, they have had 53,000 doses available -- meaning about 60% of doses available over the last two weeks have been administered.

The site at Gateway Mall can administer 3,000 shots per day, but the latest numbers show it’s not giving out that many. Wednesday, workers gave the vaccine to 1,280 people, well under half of the total daily number of shots available.

Other data from Wednesday show:

  • The satellite site at Oceanway Community Center can vaccinate 500 shots per day. It administered 144.
  • The Carver Community Center can vaccinate up to 500 people. It vaccinated 198.
  • The state-run site at Edward Waters College can give 500 vaccines. It administered 78 shots total that day.
  • The state vaccine site at Regency Mall has a capacity of 2,000 per day. It gave 1,308 doses.

Officials are pushing back on any assumptions that the doses are being thrown away or wasted, just more becomes available for future demand.

Incident Cmdr. Beesley said the state and FEMA have sent out hundreds of staffers to go door-to-door and even bring patients to vaccination sites.

The site closed early Thursday due to severe weather; the federal site ran out of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine but have other vaccines.

“We hope the outreach moves the needle in the near future,” Beesley said. “We see a shift in our demographic -- we’ve seen positive movement in that regard -- but we are still getting a lot of feedback in the intelligence gathering that there is still a lot of misinformation out there.”

The sites are also routinely having to turn people away because they don’t meet qualifications, which remain:

  • People 60 years old and above
  • Firefighters and law enforcement over age 50
  • All school personnel
  • All health care workers
  • The medically vulnerable with a doctor’s note
  • Caregivers of anyone who qualifies under the current guidelines

Brenda Bell’s brother was turned away because he didn’t have the proper state form completed by a doctor.

“He’s 58 but he has several illnesses,” Bell said. “But we didn’t realize we needed a doctor’s approval. A doctor has to indicate his illnesses.”

State officials said they did not receive an allotment of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine so the FEMA and state-run sites will only offer the two-dose Pfizer vaccines for the near future.

President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. is on track to hit its goal of injecting 100 million COVID-19 vaccines on Friday -- weeks ahead of the target date. The White House said it’s now in position to help supply Canada and Mexico with millions of shots.

LINK: Biden says US to hit 100 million vaccine goal on Friday

“I’m proud to announce that tomorrow, 58 days into our administration, we will have met our goal,” Biden said.

He promised to unveil a new vaccination target next week, as the U.S. is on pace to have enough of the three currently authorized vaccines to cover the entire adult population just 10 weeks from now.

The FEMA-sponsored site at the Gateway Mall in Jacksonville stopped accepting patients Thursday afternoon as a squall line of storms approached the area. About 5:30 p.m., as the worst of the weather was passing through the metropolitan area, authorities said it would not reopen until 7 a.m. Friday morning.

The Florida Emergency Management Division said the two satellite sites at Oceanway and Carver closed and would reopen Friday morning at 9 a.m.


The Associated Press contributed to this story.

About the Authors:

Kelly Wiley, an award-winning investigative reporter, joined the News4Jax I-Team in June 2019.

Reports weekdays and anchors The Morning Show on Saturdays and Sundays