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Tampa FEMA Vaccine Site Not Overwhelmed By Expanded Eligibility

People standing in line inside a white tent at the Tampa Greyhound Track
Daylina Miller/WUSF Public Media
People stand in line at the Tampa Greyhound Track in early March for their COVID-19 vaccine.

The FEMA site at the Tampa Greyhound Track has seen an uptick in traffic for vaccine walk-in appointments, but officials say they're prepared and it shouldn't affect wait times.

COVID-19 vaccine eligibility in Florida was expanded to people 50 and older on Monday but the additional demand didn't appear to overwhelm one of the area's busiest sites.

Tampa Greyhound Track is equipped to give out 2,000 doses a day of the COVID-19 vaccine and recently there had been leftovers as fewer people sought vaccinations.

State officials expanded vaccine eligibility to increase demand and reach more people.

Census figures show, there are about 187,500 people in Hillsborough County in their 50s.

But a FEMA official said the increased demand on Monday had been manageable.

"Normally, we have a morning rush, and then it kind of clears out after that,” FEMA spokeswoman Carole Covey. “We've continued to be consistently busy all day. We were expecting it and ready for it. So there's not been any extended wait times or anything throughout the day."

FEMA had planned to distribute only second doses at the site between March 24 and April 7. Now, it'll distribute 500 first-dose Pfizer shots each day.

Satellite sites associated with the Tampa Greyhound Track and other hubs will continue only administering second dose shots between March 24 and April 14. All satellite sites will return to their original locations over the next three weeks so all individuals who received their first dose at these sites can receive their second doses.

For the last two weeks of operations, April 14–28, the state is planning to offer the one dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The federally-supported vaccination sites were designed to remain in their communities for eight weeks, but the state is working with the federal government to evaluate if these sites can remain open past April 28.

All state-supported vaccination sites and their hours of operations are available at FloridaDisaster.org/Vaccine.

People getting their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine should bring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention appointment card they were given at their first dose to expedite the process, Covey said.

In addition to this new age group, others eligible for a vaccine include:

  • Health care personnel with direct patient contact
  • Pre-K through Grade 12 school employees (public, private, and charter)
  • Persons deemed medically vulnerable by a physician. These individuals must bring the COVID-19 Determination of Extreme Vulnerability form, completed and signed by a physician.
I took my first photography class when I was 11. My stepmom begged a local group to let me into the adults-only class, and armed with a 35 mm disposable camera, I started my journey toward multimedia journalism.
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