The Florida A&M University (FAMU) walk-up COVID-19 vaccination site opened for operations 9 a.m. Thursday, February 25. In line, waiting to be vaccinated before the opening were several dozen elderly residents and health care workers – including FAMU health professions students who are doing clinical internships in area health care facilities.
As people stood in line or sat on folding chairs, employees for CDR Maguire Health & Medical registered those waiting to be vaccinated. Once inside the Al Lawson, Jr. Multipurpose Center, they walked to one of four vaccination stations.
By closing time, 1 p.m., 65 people had been vaccinated, said Tanya Tatum, director of Student Health Services. Since the walk-up site is geared to underserved communities, especially people of color, Tatum is hoping that those over 65 who live on Tallahassee’s Southside and others who have struggled to get access to the vaccine will take advantage of the location and the ease of getting their shot.
“We are right here in the neighborhood. You don’t need an appointment or even to preregister. Just bring your I.D. and you’ll get vaccinated,” said Tatum, who acknowledged the challenge of convincing large segments of the African American community to get vaccinated. “We hold a position of trust in this community and we want to assure people that this is a safe process. In order to end this pandemic and return to some semblance of normalcy, people need to be vaccinated.”
Established by the Florida Division of Emergency Management and with technology support from CD Maguire Health & Medical, the site operates from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., seven days a week. Staff will distribute up to 200 vaccine doses daily for the first four weeks. Later, the site is expected to expand to 400 doses per day.
Those visiting the free vaccination site are asked to bring an ID to verify their birthday. The site is being opened as the state seeks to ramp up vaccine operations and combat growing vaccine hesitancy and skepticism among African Americans and other communities of color. Those seeking to be vaccinated can register online at https://commvax.patientportalfl.com or come and be registered onsite.
As an acknowledgement of the challenge the University faces to overcome vaccine hesitancy among African Americans, FAMU is stepping up its outreach to build trust among community groups, including Greek letter organizations, civic groups, churches and alumni associations. There are also plans in the works to launch a billboard, tv, radio and social media campaign to reach these groups.
In addition, FAMU President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., sent a letter appealing to community members to get vaccinated.
“This vaccination site is central to our efforts to reach underserved communities at this crucial time. African Americans are more likely to contract and die of COVID-19 than other groups. We are also being vaccinated at far lower rates than the general population. This is a dangerous combination our community can ill afford,” Robinson wrote. “We urge you to take advantage of this free vaccination service. This is an opportunity for our community. This is an opportunity to save the lives of those we love.”