30K doses administered between 3 federal COVID-19 vaccine sites; but FEMA has man power and supply to do more

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — UPDATE March 18 2:30 p.m.

The Gateway Vaccination Site has temporarily stopped accepting patients due to severe weather.

62-year-old Ernestine Denton received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Thursday. Little did she know, it was a big accomplishment, not just for her.

“When I walked up here [Gateway Mall], I was told I was the 30,000th patient for today… so I’m like OK,” Denton said.

The three federally-run vaccination sites in Jacksonville hit the milestone of 30,000 doses administered on Thursday. To “celebrate” staff awarded Denton balloons and a hat.

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“I’m somewhat of a celebrity today,” she said. Although, coming out to get her vaccine was much more than a shot for her. “It’s very emotional, because I can do everything that I can do to keep myself safe and my family safe. But, I was really waiting for this vaccine to come out, so that I could be protected from the virus.”

While Denton’s shot is big news, FEMA representatives acknowledge they can do more. They have an ample amount of manpower and supply.

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“We’re not reaching capacity at this point,” Ronald Beesley said. He serves as the Incident Commander for FEMA supported vaccination sites in Jacksonville.

The Gateway Mall site in Brentwood had the ability to give out 38,000 shots since opening on March 3rd. The two satellite sites-- previously located on the Northside and recently moved to Oceanway and Jacksonville Beach—could have given out 15,000 shots since their open date. Both sites have been open seven days a week since March 3rd.

FEMA said 30,000 doses have been given out since March 3rd between all three sites. If capacity had been hit daily, as of March 18, they should have given out 53,000 doses. That means 23,000 vaccines that could have been administered at these sites were not.

The hope is that with more education and by spreading awareness, more people will come out.

“I need 30,000 more people to come and take the shot,” Denton said.