Mercedes-Benz vaccine site closes after administering 300K COVID-19 shots

A woman prepares a COVID-19 vaccine shot at the mass vaccination site at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Thursday morning, April 22, 2021. (Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Caption
A woman prepares a COVID-19 vaccine shot at the mass vaccination site at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Thursday morning, April 22, 2021. (Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Ben Gray

Vaccines continue elsewhere in Fulton, metro Atlanta

The massive COVID-19 vaccination site at Mercedes-Benz Stadium closed this week after administering 300,000 doses.

The site started as a Fulton County operation on Jan. 4, and on March 23 started being supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency — the only mega-site in the Southeast, with the capacity of administering 42,000 shots a week.

“What they built we really just took and super-sized,” said John Allen, the FEMA site leader.

The operation at Mercedes-Benz didn’t surpass the other mega-sites in cities like New York, Houston or Chicago in total shots given. But the stadium did earn one honor: On April 28, they administered 12,726 doses, which was the largest single-day total for any mega-site.

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Allen has only seen his 3-year-old son twice since the assignment in Atlanta began March 15.

“I did miss my wife’s birthday and Mother’s Day, so she informed me that Father’s Day will now be Mother’s Day,” he said with a laugh over the phone hours after his plane landed Wednesday.

Allen attributed their success to the partnership (including a $1 lease for the stadium), the layout allowing for social distancing and the central location along with 3,900 free parking spots.

There was confusion over the tab, but Allen said finance folks take years to work out the final bill.

Whatever it cost, he’s proud of their resiliency. When staff saw the demand for appointments decline in mid-April, they switched to offering walk-up appointments.

For those who’ve waited in line at Waffle House, it’s obvious that reservations and appointments make logistics easier. But Fulton officials said the take-all-comers approach helped them reach populations with more fluid schedules.

People make their way into Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Thursday morning, April 22, 2021 for COVID -19 vaccinations. The site is open this week for walk-up vaccinations without appointment. (Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Caption
People make their way into Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Thursday morning, April 22, 2021 for COVID -19 vaccinations. The site is open this week for walk-up vaccinations without appointment. (Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

“Before we started, a lot of things were boarded up,” said Lt. Col. George E. Bolton, Jr.

Now?

“The businesses, the restaurants, the tourism sites, the aquarium, the hotels, you can look around at your own metrics of success,” he said.

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Bolton was responsible for the 232 Department of Defense staff who helped with the site. He usually runs a tank battalion out of Fort Stewart near Hinesville, and said they had staff from as far away as an Army hospital in Hawaii.

The mission was shots in arms and doing so in a way “to make sure there’s equitable opportunity across the board,” he said.

The site administered a total of 300,452 doses — barely reaching the 300,000 benchmark on the last day.

Fulton County Commissioner Robb Pitts was there Monday when they met the goal.

“Right now, there are people safely spending time with their grandchildren, enjoying reunions, and eating at restaurants because of the success we had here.” said Pitts in a statement.

But plenty of work remains.

The latest data shows that 356,363 people in Fulton have had at least one dose of the vaccine. The county plans to still offer walk-up appointments and is working on creating/contracting a mobile vaccination effort.

“There has been a disturbing trend of declining vaccination rates and the turnout has slowed down in recent weeks,” Pitts said. “We’re so close to defeating this crisis, but that will only happen if everyone gets the vaccine – which is safe, effective, and free.”

Those interested in getting a vaccine in Fulton can visit https://fultoncountyga.gov/covidvaccine.

Credit: WSBTV Videos

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Final day for COVID-19 vaccines at Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Credit: WSBTV Videos