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In Fall 2020, WUSF began reporting on how distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine exposes inequities in Florida's health care system. Our stories focus on the voices of residents in communities of color and how Florida's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and vaccine distribution affects them.WUSF’s reporting on disparities in health care access is funded in part by the COVID-19 Response Initiative of Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation and Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

Hillsborough residents are getting booster shots at a new site meant to expand access to vaccines

 Juanita Cook, 76, said she's lost loved ones to COVID-19 and wanted the booster shot to protect herself from the virus.
Stephanie Colombini
Juanita Cook, 76, said she's lost loved ones to COVID-19 and wanted the booster shot to protect herself from the virus.

Seniors who showed up Monday say the site offered a convenient opportunity to get COVID boosters. Only a limited group of people qualify, but others can get standard vaccinations and testing.

Hillsborough County is expanding access to COVID-19 vaccines and testing by opening a new community site in a historically Black neighborhood east of Tampa.

A steady stream of people showed up at Progress Village Park on the site's first day open Monday morning. Those needing testing went to a separate room in order to protect people getting vaccinated from possible transmission of the virus.

Many people who visited the site were there to get booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Some were younger adults with underlying health conditions or who worked in settings at high-risk for COVID exposure.

But most were seniors, like Roesolia Young, 92.

“I came here because it's so convenient, I live right down the street here on this same street,” she said.

Young was accompanied by her daughter Harriett Mosley, who said her mom used to exercise at the park before the pandemic and wanted to go to a familiar place to get her shot.

Stephanie Colombini
Roesalia Young, 92 (left), stands next to her daughter Harriett Mosley, 65. She said the COVID-19 vaccination site in Progress Village made it convenient to get a booster shot because she lives in the neighborhood.

That's how Juanita Cook, 76, felt as well. She goes to church in Progress Village and said she's relieved to get the booster.

“I've had some close friends and family members who've died from COVID and I want to be protected,” she said.

Cook said she knows she could still get the coronavirus but feels good knowing she will have an added layer of immunity to protect her from severe infection.

RELATED: 'Unequal Shots' series explores barriers to vaccination in Florida

The purpose of the site was to give residents more options when it comes to getting vaccinated or tested, said Iñaki Rezola, Hillsborough County’s operations section chief and deputy director for emergency management.

“We want people to go to the local pharmacies; we’re not here to compete with the CVSes, the Walgreens, the Publix and the Walmart; we want them to go there,” he said. “But if they’re busy, they can’t get in. We’re giving people another option to come in and either get vaccinated or get tested,” he said.

Jeanine Lussier, 65, said she had looked into making an appointment for a booster at a local pharmacy but was confused about the signup process online. She drove from Apollo Beach with her mother, Anita Hartshorn, 86, and said th

Stephanie Colombini
Jeanine Lussier (right) said she jumped at the chance for her and her mother to get booster shots at the Hillsborough site.

e public site made things easier.

“I heard about it and I woke her up at 6 o’clock this morning and said, ‘We're going!’” Lussier said. “I mean, I do not understand why people don’t get the vaccine. It's safe. This is now the third one I’ve had, no reactions to either one and I feel healthy and I feel strong.”

There were already some testing and vaccination sites in Hillsborough run by the city of Tampa, but Rezola said officials wanted to get a sense of how much need there was for a public site outside the urban core. He said the Progress Village location was a good fit for residents of the historically Black neighborhood and for those traveling from other parts of the county, as it’s close to major roadways.

“You know if lots and lots of people come for vaccinations here and demand is such, we’ll open some other sites, but if not we’ll see how long we keep this site open. We’ll keep it as long as our community needs us to keep it open,” he said.

Information on getting the vaccine at this site

  • The location is 8701 Progress Blvd., Tampa, and will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  • County officials are asking residents to make appointments for vaccinations. Walkups are accepted for testing, and both rapid antigen and PCR tests are available.
  • Only a limited group of people qualify for the booster shot, but the site is also welcoming patients ages 12 and older to get first or second doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
  • People wanting to receive a booster must present their vaccination card that proves they received the Pfizer shot and states the date the second vaccination was administered.
  • People who have lost their vaccination cards can visit the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County to request a new vaccination card in-person, or online. They can also visit the location where they were originally vaccinated.

Criteria for qualifying for a booster at the Progress Village site:

  • Fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine
  • Received second Pfizer vaccine dose at least six months prior to receiving the booster

Residents who SHOULD get booster shots are:

  • 65 years old or older
  • 50 to 64 years old with underlying medical conditions
  • Residents in long-term care facilities

Residents who MAY get booster shots:

  • 18-49 years old with underlying medical conditions
  • 18-64 years old at increased risk because of occupational or institutional settings

Copyright 2021 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Stephanie Colombini joined WUSF Public Media in December 2016 as Producer of Florida Matters, WUSF’s public affairs show. She’s also a reporter for WUSF’s Health News Florida project.