JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The state-run Edward Waters College vaccine site is able to administer 500 doses per day. In the almost month the site has been open, it hasn't come close to that number.
Wednesday, health care workers at EWC administered just 78 of the 500 doses available. Those low numbers are why, in part, staff at the site is launching a community outreach program and taking vaccines directly into the community.
The site is a partnership between Agape Family Health Care and the state. Agape's CEO, Mia Jones, said the outreach is too.
"About a week into us standing up the Waters site, we started to talk about, 'you know, what else can we do in order to make sure that we get the number of people vaccinated that need it and want it," she said.
The team will start vaccinating about 200 seniors Friday morning who live at and signed up at one of the Jacksonville Housing Authority's senior communities, Centennial Towers. Next week, they'll move to JHA's Hogan Creek Towers.
A spokesperson for JHA said while their residents are eligible for the shots, there hasn't been the same outreach efforts by state officials, like bringing in drug stores pharmacists to vaccinate seniors, that we've seen at long term care facilities. First Coast News asked the state why this was the case and haven't heard back yet.
"There are so many ways for people to get information. A senior may still be getting the 'Times Union' [newspaper]. They may be listening to the radio. They're listening to different stations. They're not listening to Siri, or telling Siri what they want to listen to, and so this was an opportunity for us to reach them where they are," Jones said.
Jones said they also plan to bring shots to homebound seniors, partner with churches, businesses and schools to reach people who may not be able to make it to the site to get vaccinated.
As far as how many doses they'll bring each time they go somewhere, Jones said it will depend on who signs up at that location. If there are more people than expected, she said they will get more doses from EWC. The doses will come from the site's 500 per day.
Jones said the low turnout of people who meet the criteria to get vaccinated at EWC is upsetting.
"It's very frustrating in terms of being able to respond to the need that's at hand. We know we have people who are interested in it, but when they come and they don't meet our requirements, and we have to tell them, 'no, we can't do it.' It’s difficult," Jones said.
The following groups are able to get vaccinated at EWC:
- Those 60-years-old or older
- Long-term care facility residents and staff
- Healthcare personnel with direct patient contact
- K-12 employees, firefighters, or sworn law enforcement over 50
- Medically vulnerable with a note from your doctor
"I'm looking forward to the day and hearing the governor says he's releasing the reins, and we can go ahead and vaccinate all those that are interested in being vaccinated, because we know everybody doesn't want to do it, but we know there are a lot of people who do," Jones said.
Governor Ron DeSantis said during a press conference Thursday that he thinks by April any Floridian who wants a shot will be able to get one.
As for now, Jones said they'll try to get to as many people as they can that meet the criteria.
"Recognizing that then we have not been released to vaccinate everyone that might be interested, we have to find a way to make sure that we are working within the confines of what has been placed before us, and then going to those people who meet those requirements," she said.
At the end of the day, if there's extra vaccine in a syringe, which is only then good for six hours, Jones said they'll give it to whoever is in line, qualified or not. She said this doesn't happen often, but a shot in an arm is better than throwing it away.
“Oh no [when asked if they throw out vaccine]. Not on my watch. We won't throw anything away. We will make sure, if we've got to sit there and wait for somebody to show up, we will get it into somebody's arm," Jones said.
"This is like liquid gold, and so we want to make sure that we use all of the vaccines that we have within a timely manner and that we're able to create a safer environment for our community," she said.
Jones also said there aren't as many people now who don't meet the criteria who initially showed up the first few weeks hunting for a vaccine. She said she thinks they heard the state's message, which she reiterates: don't line up to get a shot if you don't meet the criteria.
If you want to sign up to have the vaccine brought to a homebound senior, or brought somewhere in the community, you can visit Agape's website, or call 904-993-1886.