Mass Vaccination Sites Finally Start Opening Throughout the Country

People receive the Covid vaccine at Manhattan’s Javits Center which recently opened as a COVID vaccination site on January 13, 2021 in New York City. The Javits, which had previously functioned as a field hospital last spring when New York City was the epicenter of the pandemic, will now serve as a massive vaccine distribution center. Appointments will be required and only first responders, the elderly and select groups are eligible at this time. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

By Elle Meyers, Patrick Abdalla

January 22, 2021

Thousands of people are expected to get vaccinated every day in each location.

States across the country are finally opening mass coronavirus vaccination sites, with the hope of inoculating thousands of people a day. 

Since the first coronavirus vaccine was approved for use in the United States in December, the country’s vaccination effort has fallen short of official goals. As production of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines ramps up and more doses become available to the public, mass vaccination sites aim to help speed up allocation.

Vaccination and reaching herd immunity are both key for life to return pre-pandemic normalcy. 

“There’s nothing more important than that,” Dr. Dara Kass, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Columbia University, told COURIER. “There are no football games that are more important than that, there are no baseball games that are more important than that. We need to very much pause on anything. There’s only a few specific places that can be used for this, and they should be. We should be focusing on mass vaccination.”

Pennsylvania’s Health and Emergency Management departments are working on opening up sites in the state, officials said. The state’s interim vaccination plan includes having mass vaccination sites throughout the state, but those plans depend on how many vaccine doses the manufacturers can produce and how much money the state gets from the federal government.

Philadelphia, which is coordinating its own vaccine response with Washington, DC, had a two-day mass vaccination site at the Pennsylvania Convention Center earlier this month.

Some other counties and local health care systems are also setting up sites.

The Lehigh Valley Health Network will host its first mass vaccination site at Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom on Wednesday. It’s for residents age 75 and older, and by appointment only. The slots have all filled up, a health system spokesperson said. 

The network touted its experience with flu shots. 

“LVHN has extensive mass immunization experience, hosting drive-through flu shot clinics for nearly two decades,” a network press release said, “where we have vaccinated as many as 8,000 people in one day.” 

Spokesperson Brian Downs said the health system plans future drive-thru vaccination sites in its region when more doses are available.

Outgoing state Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine has repeatedly said the better communication from the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed would help the state and its health care providers get the vaccine out faster. 

New Jersey officials are opening six mass vaccination sites in convention centers, malls, and entertainment complexes. Each site will have the capacity to vaccinate thousands of people once the federal government is able to allocate more doses. 

“In rural areas, you can do fairgrounds, whereas in urban areas you can do them at stadiums. But no matter what, the federal government needs to empower the local communities to do this, to fund it and support it,” Kass said. 

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden began work to answer that call. Up to 100 sites run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) could be up and running within the next month. The plans are designed to “provide federal support to existing or new community vaccination centers and mobile clinics across the country,” according to documents originally obtained by The Washington Post. 

The move significantly increases the role of the federal government and agencies in the vaccination effort. Previously, federal officials had left much of the planning and financing up to the states with little to no high-level guidance, which has created an uneven patchwork of vaccine distribution. 

The additional help will also be integral to getting vaccines to rural areas. 

“[For rural areas] it might be things like getting buses to vaccination centers, it may be things like investing in a large scale, taking all available [resources] whether its high school gymnasiums, fairgrounds, and doing pop up centers there,” Kass said. 

Experts predict vaccine supply will remain limited until production ramps up. Officials hope to have enough vaccines to inoculate anyone who wants a dose by early-to-mid summer.


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