San Diego State University

March Madness: Viejas Arena Opens as County's Newest Vaccination Site

SDSU's basketball season is over, but shots are still being put up inside Viejas Arena

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Marco Della Ripa walked to the center of the cavernous arena, surrounded by thousands of empty red seats.

“Can’t wait to get this done and move on with our lives,” said the San Marcos man who was about to get his first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

He said he felt lucky to get the appointment the day before.

“Just to get this vaccine and get it over with so you can be with your loved ones and hug them,” he said with a slight pause. He can’t wait to hug his relatives.

“I think that’s the hardest part through this whole event is just not to be able to hug them,” Della Ripa said.

He found himself sitting at table 11 in the gigantic Viejas Arena on San Diego State’s campus. The home of the Aztec basketball teams was now home to the County of San Diego’s newest vaccination site.

“It is super cool. We are so excited to be here,” said Kim Forrester with the county’s Health and Human Services Agency.

Forrester said they booked 200 appointments Tuesday and intend to book 750 a day going forward as long as vaccination supplies are available. She said they’re also setting aside multiple appointments every day for people living nearby in underserved communities and for those people who might struggle making an appointment online

“One of our goals is always to reach out to our health-equity communities to make sure that we’re accessible to the community,” said Forrester, who added anyone struggling should make appointments by calling 211.

Della Ripa was able to make his appointment on-line for his first vaccination. He said he’ll be back in three weeks for the second. That’s when he’ll really look forward to those family hugs.

“It’s going to be pretty emotional,” he said. “I feel like we’re actually seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”

The County’s Viejas Arena vaccination site will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for people with appointments only.

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