The vaccination super station in downtown San Diego has seen its share of long lines since it opened. Those lines grew Thursday as people began to file in for appointments missed when a strong winter storm shut down the site earlier this week.
The site didn't open until 7 a.m., which it does daily, but, at 4 a.m. Thursday, lines of cars were already waiting for their turns to get in. By 6 a.m., lines were forming around the site in all directions – one even backing way up the street. In fact, by 11 a.m., officials had issued a traffic alert for the downtown Imperial Avenue offramp on Interstate 5 south due to the backed-up traffic.
“If I can’t sleep at home, I might as well be here not sleeping," said La Mesa resident Linda Taylor, who was first in line on Thursday and, asked if she would sleep easier once she got the vaccine, added, "I’m gonna have the best nap this afternoon, ever.”
Appointments missed Monday and Tuesday during the two-day shutdown of the site due to inclement weather have been rescheduled for Thursday and Saturday, respectively, officials said.
Milton Chambers Sr. returned to the super station at around 3:45 a.m. Thursday after his appointment on Monday was canceled.
"COVID-19 is real," said Chambers, who lives in the Paradise Hills neighborhood of San Diego and was just behind Taylor in line. "I mean, I’ve lost some great friends, and my heart is heavy today. I’m a pastor, and I pastor a lot of people. and I want to make sure that I get myself safe and safeguard the people around me."
The vaccination super station is a drive-thru and walk-up site – by appointment only. Traffic has been known to get busy around the site later in the day, so people have been lining up early every day since it opened on Jan. 11.
The downtown site reopened Wednesday after its tents were rebuilt following the wild weather that forced its temporary closure.
NBC 7 spoke with several people waiting in line to get their coronavirus vaccine Wednesday who said it took them about two hours to get in and out. Most of that time was spent in traffic, waiting to get in. One man told NBC 7 he was able to avoid the traffic by walking onto the site (with an appointment).
The line Wednesday was controlled by a few traffic officers, but even still, some people with appointments said drivers were cutting into the line at various intersections. Some had to wait up to four hours for their appointment but by the evening, the line dwindled significantly, and most people said they had virtually no wait.
The downtown vaccination super station is operated by UC San Diego Health and the county. It features tents lined up in a parking lot. In all, there are 12 lines that can accommodate about 10 cars each at a time.
Once in the center, it takes about 30 minutes to get through the entire process, including a mandatory 15 minute wait time after receiving a dose of the vaccine to ensure there are no adverse reactions.
The downtown vaccination super station opened with a goal of vaccinating 5,000 Phase 1A health care workers daily. More than two weeks into operation, it has yet to reach that goal but is averaging about 4,300 doses a day, according to local health officials.
The site has since expanded to offer coronavirus vaccinations for all who are eligible under all tiers of Phase 1A, plus people age 65 and older.
According to the county, those in Tier 1 of Phase 1A are:
- Acute care, psychiatric, and correctional facility hospitals+
- Skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, and similar settings for older or medically vulnerable individuals
- Include residents in these settings as recommended for Phase 1A by ACIP
- Paramedics, EMTs, and others providing emergency medical services
- Dialysis centers
- Behavioral health residential facilities
Those in Tier 2 of Phase 1A are:
- Intermediate care, for persons who need non‐continuous nursing supervision, and supportive care
- Home healthcare and in‐home supportive services
- Community health workers, including promotoras
- Public health field staff
- Primary care clinics, including Federally Qualified Health Centers, Rural Health Centers, correctional facility clinics, and urgent care clinics
- Behavioral health non-residential or outpatient facilities
Those in Tier 3 of Phase 1A are:
- Specialty clinics, laboratory workers + +, dental/oral health clinics, pharmacy staff, and funeral workers and others.
To get vaccinated at the downtown vaccination super station, the county has outlined the process here.
An appointment is required via a UC San Diego Health MyChart account (anyone can sign up and you don’t need to be affiliated with UC San Diego Health to use this site) and when you go to get your vaccine, you must bring a photo ID or documentation that you meet the eligibility requirements.
The downtown vaccination site was the only site impacted by this week’s storm, but the pause came at a time when eligible San Diegans have reported difficulties securing coronavirus vaccination appointments. NBC 7 spoke has spoken with several seniors over the past week who said they simply can’t get an appointment – even after calling for hours and hours, site after site.
Meanwhile, more rain is on the way for San Diego County, with a storm in the forecast for Thursday night into Friday. However, county Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said Tuesday the tents at the downtown vaccination super station have been rebuilt in such a way that the site should now be able to stay open through wintry weather.
The county also runs a vaccination super station in Chula Vista in San Diego’s South Bay – a community hard-hit by COVID-19.
Fletcher said two more vaccination super stations are planned for North County and East County. Each site will also aim to administer 5,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine daily.
The site in San Diego’s North County is set to open Sunday at Cal State San Marcos. Vaccinations there will also be by appointment only.
Seven smaller vaccination sites are open for appointments now too – from El Cajon to Oceanside – information on those locations and how to set up an appointment is here.
Fletcher said those locations could ramp up to 12 sites by as early as next week, and the county continues to work on making the vaccination process more efficient.
You can learn more about where and how to get a coronavirus vaccine in San Diego County by reading this story.
The county has said that as more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine become available, immunizations will expand to those who are eligible under the tiers of Phase 1B and eventually, Phase 1C.
The county also said that health care providers who have extra doses of the coronavirus vaccine can administer their doses at their own pace, which is what some local providers like Scripps Health and UC San Diego Health began doing last week, slowly.
Meanwhile, state health officials are also working to pick up the pace of the vaccine rollout across California. Officials announced Tuesday plans to build a statewide vaccination network that uses third-party administrators to help with distribution – including pharmacies, hospitals and pop-up sites.
Earlier Delays at Downtown San Diego Vaccination Super Station
On Jan. 13, just two days after the downtown super station opened, there were some snags. A string of allergic reactions linked to a batch of Moderna vaccines administered at the vaccination super station caused delays for those waiting in line to be vaccinated.
Six people experienced reactions during a 15-minute, post-vaccine observation period. Health workers at the site stopped using that batch of vaccines out of an abundance of caution.
On Jan. 17, the California Department of Public Health recommended a pause on distributing that specific batch of COVID-19 vaccinations linked to the allergic reactions in downtown San Diego.
State epidemiologist Erica S. Pan recommended vaccine providers pause the administration of lot 41L20A of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. More than 330,000 doses of the lot were distributed to 287 providers across California and batch was placed under investigation.
One health care worker who experienced an allergic reaction at the Tailgate Park vaccination site said she couldn’t feel her tongue and had neck pain after being given the shot.
“They gave me 50 milliliters of Benadryl and then they started monitoring me even closer,” Diana Cannizzo, a local health care worker, told NBC 7. “In the meantime, somebody else had come in a gurney."
On Jan. 20, California health officials said it was safe to resume using the batch of Moderna coronavirus vaccine that had been halted after being linked to the illnesses. The decision frees up more than 300,000 doses to counties, cities, and hospitals struggling to obtain supplies.