GREENSBORO — The formal opening of an expansive COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Four Seasons Town Centre on Wednesday saw a steady stream of recipients and dignitaries.
Gov. Roy Cooper toured the site with local, state and federal officials, greeting workers and those getting vaccinated inside the old Dillard’s department store and outside at a drive-thru.
The site, funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will offer vaccinations 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for the next two months. See correction at the bottom of this story. The clinic can inoculate 3,000 or more people a day and is only one of 18 such sites across the country.
Demand is high and supply is low, so vaccination appointments often fill up quickly. Officials recommend to check back often.
During a soft opening on Tuesday, 500 doses of the precious medicine were given. By Wednesday afternoon, the clinic was on target to administer about 3,500 doses, said Kody Kinsley, a deputy secretary at the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
Megan Nelson of Randleman didn’t have to wait at all.
“Quick and done,” she said.
The doses are in addition to the state’s weekly allotment from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“North Carolina’s motto and mission, when it comes to vaccine distribution, is fast and fair,” Cooper said. “We want to use these vaccines ... and get them into people’s arms before the next shipment comes.”
“We want to make sure that those arms reflect North Carolina’s … very diverse population,” he added, referring to a recent Bloomberg report that found the state is among the best in the nation for distributing the coveted vaccine evenly among Black and white residents.
According to the Beloved Community Center, a Greensboro church which is helping provide outreach to the minority community, 7,500 slots have been set aside at the FEMA site through Sunday for “historically marginalized communities.”
Gracia Szczech, a FEMA administrator, thanked federal, state and local partners, as well as volunteers, who helped get the clinic up and running. She noted there are about 150 U.S. Air Force personnel dedicated to operating the site.
“It takes a team to build this village and there is a lot of team players,” she said. “In my career of emergency management, this is the most rewarding.
“We are truly saving lives.”
The Four Seasons site will serve as a hub, with outlying churches and community centers serving as “spokes” that will offer 500 or more doses of the vaccine.
Some sites offer testing on an almost daily basis. Others offer testing on a temporary basis. Check back for updated clinic sites.
Locations of those sites weren’t available Wednesday, but Kinsley said they hope to launch some by next week.
Asked if it’s possible the FEMA site might operate longer than the currently approved eight weeks, Cooper said: “We know that more vaccines are being manufactured, and if this works well, we would hope that there could be an extension.”
FEMA’s Szczech didn’t dismiss the idea, either.
“We will see. We are going week by week to see the vaccinations that we are doing,” she said, “and I think there will be further discussions in seeing how successful this is.”
Those who received the vaccine Wednesday were happy with the process.
“I was surprised at how smooth it went,” said Mike Weaver of Wallburg after receiving his shot in the drive-thru.
Contact Kenwyn Caranna at 336-373-7082 and follow @kcaranna on Twitter.