TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — A new way to reach more people in some of our under-served communities is coming to Tallahassee. Florida A&M University is taking the lead in getting more people vaccinated.
The FAMU vaccination site that was set to open last week was moved to a Feb. 25 opening date at 9 a.m. due to weather delays.
Thursday, the Al Lawson Center is going to be converted into the city's newest, weekly vaccine site. FAMU President Dr. Larry Robinson said this perfectly aligns with the goal to help minorities.
"One of the things that concerns us greatly is such a small percentage of African-Americans and persons of color would get vaccinated," said Dr. Robinson.
The Florida Department of Health reports only about five percent of African-Americans have received a dose of the COVID vaccine in Florida. While Leon County is doing better than the state, at 10 percent, community leaders know that's not good enough.
Robinson said he hopes giving access to the vaccine at the Historically Black College will bring those numbers up and encourage others to do what he already has.
"It's very, very important that as a trusted member of the community that is here," said Dr. Robinson. "This is where we can get a demographic that has been underrepresented in these vaccines."
The Al Lawson Center will be open seven days a week, starting Feb. 25. FAMU said 200 people will be able to receive the Moderna vaccine per day. Then, after a month, Robinson expects they will administer 400 vaccines a day.
"It's fantastic," said Dr. Linda Fortenberry. "One of the main points of our concern is that our community can go where there are trusted voices and trusted venues and definitely Florida A&M University is a trusted venue."
Dr. Fortenberry is the executive liaison for the statewide coronavirus task force, with a goal to educate and help more under-served areas.
The group is making its own progress. So far, they've identified 180 possible sites in different areas, from churches to community centers. It's all in hopes to use familiarity to get people protected against the virus.
"We have a long way to go but we will get there," said Dr. Fortenberry.
The later opening is the result of a delay in the arrival of Moderna vaccines from Memphis, Tennessee, University officials said. Winter snowstorms have caused disruption in the shipment of goods across the country.
Those visiting the free vaccination site are asked to bring an ID to verify their birthday.
Those seeking to be vaccinated can register online by clicking here. However, most of those served are expected to visit the site without pre-registration, FAMU officials said.
“The site is a walk-up site, so the registration will speed things up for someone coming to get the vaccine, but it does not guarantee them the vaccine or give them an appointment to be vaccinated,” said Tanya Tatum, director of FAMU Student Health Services. “The state anticipates that most individuals will be registered by staff once they get to the site. We are limited to 200 persons a day to start.”
FAMU said they want to do targeted outreach to homeless populations and in under-served communities first, to make sure everybody has access, including those without internet access.