GEMA mass vaccine clinic at Columbus Civic Center expected to close on May 21

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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — What was a rush to get the COVID 19 vaccine several months in Columbus ago has now slowed down – considerably.

And that means the days for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency mass clinic at the Columbus Civic Center are numbered.

It is scheduled to be closed in about a month.

Thursday morning, the clinic was approaching 25,000 shots given at this state-operated, federally-funded site since it opened March 17th.

On Friday, Gov. Brian Kemp’s office is expected to announce this site will close next month.

Right now, the clinic is averaging between and 400 and 500 shots a day, a combination of first and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine, said Jason Ritter, the GEMA Area 4 field coordinator who has managed the site.

“We started off kind of low, we ramped up pretty high and it’s starting to fall back down now as far as the number of cars, number of patients that come through in a day,” Ritter said. “It is definitely going down.”

At the time the clinic was opened, Columbus lagged behind other areas in doses administered.

“People have had every opportunity to come and get vaccinated, those that wanted to,” said Chance Corbett, deputy Emergency Management director for the city of Columbus. “And when this site is closed down, we are going to continue to go out in the community as much as we can.”

The contract to lease the Civic Center expires on May 21. That is the day the site is expected to close.

Even with the closing imminent, the clinic is fully staffed and fully operational. And people like Shawn Nelson of Fortson are making the decision to get the shot.

Nelson and her husband got their first shot of the Pfizer vaccine on Thursday.

“I say do your research,” Nelson said. “Think with your heart. Make your own decision. Do what you have got to do for yourself. Think about your family. Thank about others. Ultimately, it’s your decision. Do what you got to do for yourself. And I did it for myself and my family.”

One of reasons for the lag is closing the site is so people like the Nelsons getting their first shots will be able to get the second Pfizer shot at the same location.

The GEMA clinic is currently no appointment necessary. Ritter tells News 3 that the first two hours the clinic is open in the mornings are the busiest time. It is open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. They are getting 120-200 non-appointment people per day.

There is also the possibility that in the final month the Columbus GEMA site could give the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine if the FDA allows it back on the market.

When the mass clinic closes, the Georgia Department of Public Health will continue to operate vaccine clinics at its Veterans Parkway office and other selected sites. Over the last three weeks, DPH has been averaging about 2,000 shots per week, a spokesman said.

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