JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The city of Jacksonville is working with the state to convert some of the city-run COVID-19 testing sites into vaccination locations so the administration of the pandemic-battling vaccines can go faster and reach more people, city Chief Administrative Officer Brian Hughes told a City Council committee Monday morning.
"We will do everything as a city we can to help expedite the distribution of this vaccine to as many people as quickly and safely as possible," Hughes told the neighborhood committee.
He said the state Division of Emergency Management has committed to Mayor Lenny Curry that it will provide vaccines through the city-run sites after contractors working for the city as those sites are certified to give the vaccines.
Curry is scheduled to have a news briefing at 12:05 Monday with the health department about the vaccination program.
In addition to converting some of the city's half-dozen sites that have done COVID-19 testing with some flu vaccinations into locations where people can get the vaccinations, the city is working with the state to provide vaccinations at the two state-run testing sites at Regency Square mall and the Legends Center.
Hughes said the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department is coordinating with the state on those two sites. Employees of the fire department have been getting vaccinations themselves in preparation for helping with the administration of vaccines.
The state Department of Health is providing vaccines by appointment at the Prime Osborn Convention Center. Hughes said the state health department's goal is to achieve 1,000 vaccinations a day this week.
Hughes said the frequency of the vaccinations must ramp up because Duval County has nearly 1 million residents, including about 125,000 who are 65 and older, which is the initial segment of the general public getting preference for the vaccines.
"A thousand a day from the Department of Health will not get us where we need to go," Hughes said.
Hughes said the city cannot directly get supplies of the vaccines. The distribution is controlled by the federal government, which has been providing the doses to the states.
He said the goal is to have two of the city-run testing sites providing vaccinations this week after city-hired contractors get certified by the state to give the vaccinations.
“Once that approval comes, and we think it’s a matter of days, the city will work with them to convert at least some of our testing locations as quickly as possible," Hughes said. "The hope would be at least two of them could convert this week. But that is a hope. I’m not guaranteeing that because that there are several elements of that out of control” of the city.