TAMPA, Fla. — ABC Action News got a behind-the-scenes look at the team of health care workers and members of the Department of Defense vaccinating hundreds of people a day at the federally supported site.
Four tents make up FEMA's mass vaccination site, including a makeshift registration room, vaccination area and waiting area to ensure people who received the shot do not experience any immediate adverse reactions.
“Everybody had their mask on, there was social distancing,” said Jackie St Charles, an assistant principal in Hillsborough County. “It was very smooth. I was in and out in about 45 minutes.”
The turnout on Thursday was in part sparked by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ unexpected announcement that all K-12 school employees, regardless of age, are now eligible for the vaccine at federally supported sites.
Beatriz Santana, 25, jumped at the opportunity Thursday.
“I went online and I applied, I made an appointment, and I came,” said Santana. “I couldn’t wait.”
The policy change from the DeSantis administration comes after President Joe Biden announced this week that all school and child care employees, regardless of age, should receive at least one dose of the vaccine by the end of March.
“The federal government is the one sending us the vaccine,” said DeSantis. “If they want it to be for all ages then they have the ability to go and do that.”
Amy McIntosh, a Polk County social studies teacher, received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Thursday.
McIntosh said it’s one less thing to worry about as she continues her battle with breast cancer.
After her second dose, McIntosh plans to visit her son before he embarks on an overseas deployment with the U.S. Navy.
“The fact that I can’t even visit my own son in the United States of America makes it very hopeful that I will get to have some normalcy back and be able to be with my own family again," McIntosh said.
Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Addison Davis released a statement to his employees:
"I have an important update for all Hillsborough County Public School employees concerning COVID-19 vaccinations. By now you may have heard that Governor DeSantis announced that all PreK-12 school employees, regardless of age, are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.The Department of Health-Hillsborough is working on the registration process. In order to register for an appointment, you will need to go to www.patientportalfl.com[patientportalfl.com] and create an account. At this time, anyone age 50 and over can register for an appointment. The county system is currently being updated so that employees under the age of 50 can also register for an appointment. We will update you as soon as we are notified that the registration process is ready for everyone.I am grateful that the governor’s office has listened to superintendents across the state and is now prioritizing educators for the vaccine. You have been on the front lines since the pandemic hit our communities and through your efforts along with the vaccination programs, we are finally seeing a decrease in the rate of transmission of the virus. I appreciate your continued hard work and dedication to our students."