State aims to increase vaccine numbers by moving University Mall site to Raymond James Stadium

The state-run COVID-19 vaccination site at University Mall is moving to Raymond James Stadium next week, state emergency management officials confirmed Monday.

The switch comes after seniors ran into long lines and confusion at the University Mall vaccine site over a week ago. State emergency management said part of the move is to address those logistics problems, but the state is still nailing down the date and even where to put the site on the stadium property.

Mall representatives said vaccine operations are running smoothly and efficiently now, but those days earlier this month were a perfect storm of events.

"The program was operating above the 3,000 vaccinations per day level and moving toward the 4,000-per-day mark. This was not sustainable, considering that non-appointment second vaccinations were kicking into the equation, on a 100-acre commercial site where over 100 businesses are operating daily and over $100 million of construction projects are underway," said Christopher Bowen of RD Management, the company that owns the mall.

LINK: COVID-19 vaccine distribution information in Tampa Bay area counties

University Mall is a drive-through, appointment-only site that usually runs best at 1,500 vaccinations a day, Bowen said. 

"This is a process aimed at achieving specific goals to protect and benefit the community. The issues which arose at the mall site for a few days out of many weeks in operation were part of the learning curve," said Bowen.

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Raymond James Stadium already hosts a state-run COVID-19 testing site. Florida Division of Emergency Management spokesperson Samantha Bequer said. "Individuals with vaccine or testing appointments at these locations will have their appointments honored at the new location."

The relocation will not reduce testing services, Bequer added.

University Mall representatives said they will shift focus to COVID-19 testing instead of vaccines.