Health experts raise concerns as Duval County’s vaccination rate slows

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After an 11-day pause, Johnson & Johnson vaccine is back at the federally-supported mega-site at the Gateway Mall in Jacksonville.

But this weekend, just 69 people received the J&J shot out of the 3,000 available doses. On Monday, the parking lot was mostly empty.

Meanwhile, state-run sites like the one at the Regency Mall administered more than 1,600 shots of Pfizer vaccine.

Public health experts said Monday they are concerned as the demand at vaccine sites dips across the state.

Many going into the Gateway site in Jacksonville on Monday, like Lilly Hall, were going to get their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

“I wanted to get this because I am tired of worrying about COVID stuff,” Hall said. “I wanted a little peace of mind.”

In a statement Friday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said of the J&J vaccine that it and the CDC “have confidence that this vaccine is safe and effective and that data shows potential benefits outweigh its known and possible risks.”

Since then, The Florida Division of Emergency Management said site staff has received additional training based on guidance from the CDC and FDA and consent and screening forms have been updated.

The pause on Johnson & Johnson was recommended by federal regulators after six women developed a rare and severe type of blood clot after taking the vaccine. Since the pause, the FDA found nine more cases, three of which were fatal.

Public health experts say across Florida vaccine administration is slowing down, and that applies to Duval County.

State data show the percent of each age group that’s gotten at least one COVID-19 shot since March 3. It shows the rate of younger people getting vaccinated has slowed down.

“Not just in Jacksonville, but really across the state of Florida. We were seeing that vaccine wall were hitting it, I think the appetite for vaccinations is decreasing, because of a variety of reasons. Many people feel they don’t need it,” said Chad Nielsen with UF Health. “We have to try and end this pandemic. Life is going to be a lot easier for everyone. If we do get more people vaccinated, and we can start moving forward.”

Right now, hospitalizations have largely remained stagnant. But public health experts say the state may see an increase in cases going into the summer.

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