Jacksonville seniors stand in vaccine line for hours at Regency Sq. Mall

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Karen Hemmer made an appointment for a coronavirus vaccine on the first day the Jacksonville Health Department opened a state vaccination clinic on Regency Square Mall.

Her appointment was at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, but when she arrived, the 80-year-old National Guard said she had to be at the back of the row.

The line was already wrapped around the building. It would stay that way for most of the day.

Most of the employees were 65 and over. Some, like Hemmer, grabbed walkers and sticks while they waited. Few brought chairs.

This is the line at the state test site in Regency Square today. This group is 65+ and has healthcare workers. Everything we’ve spoken to says they have appointments for this morning but have been asked to stand in line. This is the first day this website deals with vaccines. @ wjxt4 pic.twitter.com/T0jMbZiTTq

– Kelly Wiley (@KellyWileyNews) January 20, 2021

Some waited up to two hours to be vaccinated. There were no toilets outside.

The fire brigade reacted around 4 p.m. after someone standing in line had a medical emergency.

Hemmer found other seniors – most of them with appointments this morning – at the back of the row with her.

MORE | Regency Mall will become Jacksonville’s only state COVID-19 vaccination center

“I’ll stay as long as my leg can hold,” said Hemmer. “There are many people like this woman who have difficulty standing and when they make appointments they should honor it.”

The Regency Square Mall was the city’s busiest COVID-19 testing site for months. On Tuesday, state officials announced on Twitter and other social media sites that half of the operation would be converted into a vaccination clinic for healthcare workers and those 65 and over.

This week, the site has 7,800 doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines at the state’s Jacksonville site, according to the Florida Department of Health-Duval. According to the Florida Association of Public Information Officers, officials plan to book 1,000 appointments a day this week.

Patients traveling to the vaccination clinic from outside Duval County and queuing on Wednesday said although the lines were long, finding and booking an appointment was promising.

“I’m really glad I can do this,” said Nassau County’s Dottie Fortwangler travel agent. “I’ve waited for weeks and never heard from my own county or my own doctor.”

State officials pointed to people who showed up and queued without an appointment as the reason that waiting times were hours on the first day of the vaccination clinic.

“We cannot emphasize enough that if you can help with an appointment before you arrive. They are turned away and given advice on how to make an appointment online, ”the Florida Association of Public Information Officers wrote in a message to News4Jax.

From Wednesday the vaccination clinic will only book appointments for seniors aged 65 and over and employees in the healthcare sector. The site is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Patients must provide proof of Florida residency and can make an appointment by calling 1-866-200-3762.

Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax – All rights reserved.

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