GEMA opens mass vaccination site at Columbus Civic Center

Updated: Mar. 17, 2021 at 3:10 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - The Georgia Emergency Management Agency, or GEMA, mass vaccination site in Columbus is now open.

Video captured by Sky Alert 9 shows hundreds of Georgians lined up Wednesday morning ready to get their COVID-19 vaccines.

“I am utterly thrilled to get the vaccine today because I have been locked up in the house for more or less a year...” Joan Mierzwa, a Columbus resident who got her vaccine today said.

The mass vaccination site here in the Chattahoochee Valley is part of eight other locations in Georgia that, according to the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, will allow 20,000 vaccines administered per week between all locations.

“1,100 is our goal per day but once more Georgians become eligible to receive the vaccine, we do have the ability here in Columbus to expand,” Jason Ritter, GEMA’s on-site Columbus coordinator said.

Ritter says they have a 10-acre footprint spread across this location.

Chance Corbett, Columbus EMA Director says with the State operation now up and running, he is confident this will help boost the number of local residents who can receive a vaccine.

“We are very proud to have GEMA. I am just thankful to the Governor to have sent them. It will definitely help get as many people vaccinated as possible,” Corbett said. “That is our goal, that always has been our goal since day one. We are so proud to have the vaccine flowing in the Chattahoochee Valley.”

Cold-storage units allow GEMA to store thousands of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine on-site - once someone gets a dose, they are given a follow-up time and date to come back and get a second shot.

But setting up shop in a parking lot has its challenges.

“This is my second time setting up a site, I set up the site in Macon before coming to Columbus… but we are practicing medicine in a parking lot,” Ritter said. “That is typically not a normal way to administer vaccines… we have things to worry about like heat and now severe weather.”

While Ritter says some adjustments may be made over the next 12 weeks, those who got a shot today are thankful to have another layer of protection from the pandemic.

“We still have a long way to go… but I believe the Government is doing the right thing,” Ted Mierzwa said. “I think we are headed in the right direction.”

One important thing to take note of is if you want to get a COVID-19 vaccine at GEMA’s mass vaccination site, you have to make an appointment first.

To register for the vaccine, residents must meet the current eligibility requirements put out by the state of Georgia. Those who do can make an appointment by clicking here or calling 844-276-1131.

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