Speeding up vaccinations: Dover International Speedway hosts second-dose event

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DOVER — Dover International Speedway, normally known for speeding cars roaring around its high banks, is welcoming a parade of cars for a different kind of event this week.

The Monster Mile’s parking lots have been turned into a drive-thru mass vaccination site, to deliver second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to Delawareans. The effort is a result of a partnership between the speedway, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state of Delaware agencies.

“This is a big day for Delaware,” said Gov. John Carney. “It’s a big deal because it enables us to make good on our second dose commitment to thousands of Delawareans.”

The six-day event aims to provide around 19,000 second doses throughout the week.

It began on Sunday with about 1,500 individuals receiving doses and an additional 3,000 were expected to complete their second dose on Monday. The first several days of the clinic were reserved for those who received a first dose at one of the following events: Dover Division of Motor Vehicles on Jan. 16 through Jan. 18, Salesianum School in Wilmington on Jan. 18, Delaware City DMV on Jan. 22 through Jan. 24 and Georgetown DMV on Jan. 23 and 24.

The Delaware Division of Public Health is opening additional appointments at the site for Thursday and Friday, given expected increases in vaccine supply and capacity.

These slots will be for individuals who received their first dose 35 or more days ago from a pharmacy, medical provider, clinic or other source in Delaware and have not yet obtained a second dose. Those being vaccinated will need to verify with their vaccination card that they received their first dose on or before Jan. 22. These newly opened appointments are only for individuals who live, work or obtain their health care in Delaware, and received their first dose in Delaware.

“We do have some openings, partly due to the great efficiency here,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “We’re really looking for those folks who have had a difficult time finding a place to get their second dose. We think, for the most part, people who got their first dose at DMV events in January have already signed up. So we want to provide an opportunity for others, who have had trouble, to find their second dose.”

Scheduling for these second-dose appointments will open today at 11 a.m. at de.gov/fema. Those without internet access may call the DPH at 1-833-643-1715 but should not call until after 11 a.m. as no appointments will be available until then. Wait time may be lengthy based on call volume and online registration is urged, the DPH said.

Individuals will have an option to create an appointment for someone else after they create their own. However, the appointments are expected to fill quickly and people may not be able to make family appointments for the same time frame. A single email may be tied to multiple appointments. Everyone who arrives to be vaccinated must have an appointment, the DPH said.

Scheduled appointments will be canceled for those who can be identified in state vaccination records as not receiving their first dose on or before Jan. 22.

The vaccination site is the first of its kind for FEMA in its Region III, which includes Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia and West Virgina, said FEMA Coordinating Officer Tim Pheil.

FEMA provided an estimated 225 federal employees for the event, from as far away as Washington, California and Montana, such as medics from Yellowstone National Park. The Delaware Emergency Management Agency also had employees and volunteers on hand as the Delaware Department of Transportation was tasked with directing traffic.

“What we have is an example for other states to follow,” Mr. Pheil said. “I really think this is a fantastic, good news story of collaboration and cooperative effort that needs to be emulated throughout the nation.”

Mr. Pheil said FEMA is planning additional vaccination clinics in the Philadelphia-area and Maryland, modeled off the Dover site.

Dover International Speedway has hosted Food Bank of Delaware distribution sites and COVID-19 testing sites for Bayhealth during the pandemic. The speedway’s Director of Public Safety Jim Hosfelt said the success of those events made the staff feel a large-scale vaccination clinic was certainly possible.

“We’re centrally located in the state of Delaware,” Mr. Hosfelt said. “So we thought, best to make the offer and put it out there and help in anyway we could.”

The event was originally scheduled to begin Saturday, but winter weather throughout the country prevented the arrival of FEMA staff members and pushed the start date back to Sunday.

The same winter storms also affected Delaware’s vaccine supply as it shipments were delayed. Gov. Carney confirmed those doses of vaccine arrived in Delaware on Monday.

“It was a disappointment for sure,” Gov. Carney said. “But we’re back in full order now.”