Jacksonville working to convert COVID-19 testing sites to vaccine locations

Jacksonville working to convert COVID-19 testing sites to vaccine locations

The City of Jacksonville is attempting to convert COVID-19 testing sites into locations where citizens can receive the vaccine.

Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) for the city Brian Hughes said Monday morning during a Jacksonville City Council committee meeting that the hope is that at least two of the testing sites will be converted to vaccine sites as soon as next week.

“But that is a hope,” Hughes said. “I’m not guaranteeing that because, again, there are several elements of that out of control.”

He didn’t say which sites would be converted first but added that the testing sites at Regency Square Mall and the Legends Center are in play.

“People are very interested in getting this vaccine and I’m glad to hear that,” Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said during an afternoon press conference. “I understand that residents had trouble getting through on the appointment line that the Department of Health set up for this purpose. Please know that I understand the frustration.”

Hughes said the current vaccination rate is not moving fast enough.

“If the Department of Health meets its threshold that they’re attempting to get to this week, it’s about 1,000, people a day is where they think they’ll get to this week. We are a county of nearly a million people. You can do the math,” he said. “1,000 a day from the Department of Health will not get us where we need to go.”

Hughes said that there are around 130,000 people over the age of 65 currently living in Duval County.

In order to convert the site, Hughes said the city is in the process of getting contractors that have done testing and flu vaccination certified by the state as approved to give the vaccine.

Interim Health Officer for Department of Health in Duval County Heather Hoffman said so far the county has received about 39,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, in addition to what hospitals received to vaccinate staff.

“The process of these vaccines coming out has come out faster than the statewide reservation system that is currently under development,” Huffman said. “So with that, we have had to go to an alternate Plan B, which led to us having the phone line as the appointments originally which had some issues and challenges and now we’ve been able to partner with the Emergency Management, JFRD and the City of Jacksonville in order to implement that online appointment system.”

Huffman said that at the end of the month the number of vaccines administered each day will move to about 1,600.

The Florida Department of Health in Duval County began giving Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine Monday to anyone 65 years of age and older and health care workers who were able to get an appointment.

The vaccine is being given at the Prime Osborn Convention Center and 500 appointments were scheduled for Monday.

Curry said once it is his turn, he will take the vaccine.

“We are on the road to being back to normal, being back to what our lives looked like before, COVID-19 landed in Jacksonville, Florida in the state of Florida, in the United States,” Curry said. “So, let’s be responsible, when it’s your turn, I urge you to take the vaccine.”