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New federal coronavirus vaccine site opens in Tampa

The site at the Tampa Greyhound Track will be walk-up only and doesn’t require appointments. Mobile vaccination sites will also be set up around the county.
United States Air Force service members are pictured in front of a large white tent at the site of a FEMA-run vaccine distribution site opening on Wednesday, at Tampa Greyhound Track, Tuesday, March 2, 2021 in Tampa.
United States Air Force service members are pictured in front of a large white tent at the site of a FEMA-run vaccine distribution site opening on Wednesday, at Tampa Greyhound Track, Tuesday, March 2, 2021 in Tampa. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Mar. 2
Updated Mar. 3

Tampa Bay residents have another venue to get COVID-19 vaccine shots when one of the state’s first federally run vaccination sites opens Wednesday at the Tampa Greyhound Track.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has been working with states to open several large-scale vaccination sites around the nation in an effort to boost the administration of shots.

Four such sites are opening Wednesday: the 755 E. Waters Ave. race track location in Tampa; at Valencia College’s West Campus in Orlando; at the Gateway Mall in Jacksonville; and at Miami-Dade Community College’s North Campus in Miami.

The Tampa site will be a walk-up location, not a drive-through, and will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week. Residents using the site will be offered the Pfizer vaccine, according to a spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa.

She said federal officials are encouraging appointments at the site but walk-ins will also be accepted.

Each of Florida’s federally run sites will be able to administer up to 2,000 doses per day. In addition, every site will set up two smaller mobile satellite sites, each able to provide 500 vaccinations a day in underserved areas.

One such satellite site will be set up March 3-6 at the Larry Sanders Sports Complex, 5855 S. 78th St. in Tampa, Castor announced during a virtual news conference Tuesday. The mobile site will move to the Hillsborough Community College’s Brandon campus and will offer vaccines March 7-10 at 10451 Nancy Watkins Drive in Tampa, Castor said. Another site will be set up March 3-10 at Lake Maude Park, 1751 7th St. NW in Winter Haven, she said.

Florida is the first state to have a “hub-and-spoke model” for the federal vaccine sites, Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz said Tuesday. The mini-sites are meant to get vaccines deeper into communities and reach people who don’t have transportation or who face other barriers to get doses at vaccine sites, he said.

Moskowitz said the setup with the federal sites is meant to increase equity in who gets vaccines.

More than 3 million Floridians have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to state data from Tuesday, including 147,000 people in Hillsborough County and 149,000 in Pinellas. But different groups gain access at different rates, state data shows, with white Floridians aged 15 or older more than twice as likely to have gotten a vaccine than Black residents in the same age group. A somewhat smaller disparity exists statewide between Hispanic and non-Hispanic people.

The federal vaccine sites follow the state’s guidelines for who can get a vaccine. Currently, those eligible are: long-term care facility residents and staff; people aged 65 and older; frontline health care workers; and sworn law enforcement, K-12 employees and firefighters aged 50 or older.

People deemed “extremely vulnerable” to the coronavirus can also get vaccines in certain situations through hospitals, physicians and pharmacists.

Related: Florida police, firefighters and teachers 50+ to get vaccine, DeSantis says

The Tampa Greyhound Track site will be funded by the federal government and mostly run by federal employees, including a 139-person team from the U.S. Air Force, according to Robert Samaan, deputy regional administrator for region IV of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

People wanting to get vaccinated at the federal site in Tampa should use the state’s pre-registration system, myvaccine.fl.gov, or call 866-200-3896, according to Samaan.

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