The Northeast Georgia Health System is sponsoring coverage directly related to public safety so that it can be made available free to non-subscribers as a public service. News coverage is independently reported. We know that you need accurate and up-to-date information about the effects of the coronavirus in the state and our region. Please consider supporting our work by subscribing to The Times.
A new mass COVID-19 vaccination site will open Tuesday, April 6, at the Hugh Mills Physical Education Center on the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus.
This location will take the place of the Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center, which has served as a large-scale vaccination spot for the past several months. The Pfizer vaccine will be the only type of dose administered.
“We have been able to vaccinate a lot of people there, but we knew there would be a day that would come where the governor would open up those eligible to all adults,” Casey Ramsey, Hall County Emergency Management Agency director, said. “And we’ve been planning for this day so we could increase appointments,”
Dr. Zachary Taylor, health director for District 2 of the Georgia Department of Public Health, said by moving to the 11,000-square-foot gym at UNG, the agency will be able to double its capacity for appointments.
UNG mass COVID-19 vaccine clinic
Where: Hugh Mills Physical Education Center, 3820 Mundy Mill Road, Oakwood
Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday; 8:30 to 6 p.m. Tuesday; 8:30-11:15 a.m. Friday.
Appointments: 1-888-457-0186 or 1-888-426-5073, or by logging on to gta-vras.powerappsportals.us/
How to make vaccine appointments with District 2 Public Health
- Contact: Registration link on phdistrict2.org/
- Or call 1-888-426-5073 or 1-888-457-0186
“We’re now finishing up second doses at the Chicopee Woods site, so we don’t have all of our staffing here at this facility,” he said. “But once we’re there, we should be able to do 2,000 doses a day or at least have the capacity to do 2,000 doses a day.”
Taylor said he anticipates having a full staff of around 20 vaccinators at the UNG site by next week or the following.
Gainesville and Hall County governments have also partnered with UNG and DPH to hold the mass vaccination clinic. Through Aug. 1, the city of Gainesville is offering WeGo public transit to and from the new site at $1 per ride. The service typically costs $3 per trip.
Dave Palmer, District 2 Public Health’s public information officer, said the Pfizer vaccines will be kept at minus 70 degrees. Before administering a dose, he said it is thawed out then mixed with saline, a diluting agent. Once combined, the dose is drawn into a syringe and is only usable for six hours.
“We have to monitor our appointments, and we have to monitor our vaccines so we don’t waste any,” Palmer said. “There’s a process that we go through to make it happen.”
To test the waters on the new clinic’s operation, UNG opened the site to around 400 people on Monday, April 5. People will be able to enter and exit from different sides of the building, limiting overlap among visitors. A bilingual person will be on staff to assist Spanish speakers, if needed. Rows of seats take up a portion of the gym for people to use during the 15-minute post-dose observation period. Emergency staff will be on hand in the case of any adverse reaction to the vaccine.
Second-dose appointments will still be at Chicopee Woods until April 12
Though the Hall County Health Department has moved its vaccination clinic to the University of North Georgia, people with second-dose appointments until Monday, April 12, will receive them at Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center.
The health department will be operating at both facilities simultaneously between Tuesday, April 6, and April 12.
Second doses were administered Monday, April 5, at the Gainesville Ballroom on Atlanta Highway, a special clinic held in coordination with Hispanic Alliance and the Northeast Georgia Latino Chamber of Commerce. These appointments were for people who received their first dose March 13 at the Atlanta Highway site.
District 2 Public Health spokesman Dave Palmer clarified that people who receive vaccinations at Chicopee Woods are scheduled to go to Chicopee Woods for their second-dose appointments until April 12.
“Residents who received their first dose of vaccine on March 23 and after will receive their second dose at Hugh Mills Physical Education Center (at UNG),” Palmer wrote in an email.
Ramsey noted that several UNG nursing students and faculty nurses helped administer doses on Monday, along with Hall and DPH staff. With the site’s UNG location, both clinical and volunteer opportunities will open up for college students, even those not pursuing health care degrees.
Haley McCrink, a junior majoring in nursing, said she found it “pretty cool” to spend clinical hours helping out her peers.
“Normally in clinicals, you don’t get an opportunity to do a lot of vaccines or injections,” Ramsey added while standing inside the gym. “These nurses are getting a lot of experience to do that. And, it helps out staffing as well.”
With the “soft opening” on Monday, many students had the opportunity to get vaccinated. Marvin Murphy, a freshman accounting major at UNG, said now that the site is on campus, he thinks more students will be inclined to get vaccinated.
“It feels pretty good to be honest,” Murphy said after receiving his first dose. “I work with a lot of customers at my job. It’s good to get vaccinated.”
Those who visit the site are asked to bring identification and a health insurance card. However, Taylor said people don’t need to have either to receive the free vaccination. Both 16 and 17-year-olds will need to have parental or guardian approval before getting vaccinated.
Taylor said he doesn’t know how long the clinic will run at UNG, but the timeframe will depend on the demand for vaccines and eligibility changes for children.
“If you haven’t been vaccinated in Hall County, here’s your opportunity to get vaccinated,” Taylor said. “You don’t have to drive somewhere else to do it.”
Appointments can be scheduled by calling 1-888-457-0186 or 1-888-426-5073, or by logging on to gta-vras.powerappsportals.us/.
The clinic’s hours will be 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday; 8:30 to 6 p.m. Tuesday; and 8:30-11:15 a.m. Friday.