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On First Day Of Open Vaccine Eligibility, Steady Stream Of Walk-Ups At Tampa FEMA Site

a man in a pale shirt holds a paper needle syringe while his wife looks through a photo frame that says I got vaccinated.
Daylina Miller/WUSF Public Media
Tony and Nancy Kowalski, St. Petersburg residents, pose outside the vaccination tent at the Tampa Greyhound Track after getting their shots.

Adults 18 and over now qualify to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. Those age 16 and 17 can get the Pfizer vaccine with parental consent.

On Florida's first day of open vaccine eligibility, a line wrapped around the Tampa Greyhound Track vaccination site.

As people poured out of the vaccination tents smiling, the relief was palpable.

"Me and my family have been kind of living in a bubble and really quarantining hard for like 16 months. So it felt like hope for the future for the first time,” said Jasmine Keyes, of Land O’ Lakes.

Adults 18 and over now qualify to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, while 16- and 17-year-olds will be able to get the Pfizer vaccine with parental consent.

Ignatius Carroll, a spokesperson for the site, said it could be a 40-minute wait in traffic, but once you’re parked, it should take less than 30 minutes to get vaccinated.

"What we're seeing here is a lot of people want to get the vaccine. They want to take those next steps in protecting themselves and their loved ones, but obviously it is a personal choice.”

Carroll expects the site to go through all 3,000 first doses and 2,000 second doses of Pfizer on Monday. On Tuesday, the site will shift from Pfizer to the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine for newcomers, and continue second-dose Pfizer shots for those with appointments.

"I'm so relieved to have that second shot. And to be close to the end of this madness,” said St. Petersburg resident Nancy Kowalski.

Alysha Cobb, of Tampa, works in the travel industry and is involved with concert tours, which have been canceled or on hold for more than a year.

"I'm ready to get back to work. So if it gets me back to work, then I'll take it," Cobb said.

Clayton Raffield, a Tampa resident, is happy to be one step closer to not wearing masks everywhere.

“I waited 10 minutes. I feel good. So I'm going home," Raffield said. "Great experience. Everyone was very friendly. There’s nothing negative about the experience at all.”

Find a vaccine location here.

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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