A mass vaccination hub opened at the Stockton Arena with plans to administer more than 5,000 doses a day to area residents as long as vaccine supplies last.

The hub, at 248 Fremont St. in Stockton, is a consortium led by Kaiser Permanente, along with Adventist Health, Dignity Health, the California Medical Association, the California Primary Care Association, the City of Stockton and the Red Cross, who provided information on mass site planning.

At a press event on Tuesday Corwin Harper, Kaiser Permanente Central Valley Senior Vice President and area manager, said the hub will serve Central Valley residents within a 50-mile radius of Stockton, and will help bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“No one organization could have done this alone, which is why we need to work together like we have been doing through this whole pandemic,” Harper said. “Collectively we have the experience, clinical expertise and the resources to help increase the number of vaccinated community members, and our goal is to do that starting tomorrow (Wednesday) morning right here at this site at 8 a.m.”

On Tuesday, members of the media were given a tour of the arena and its transformation into a vaccination hub.

Harper said the site provides easy access to freeways and public transportation. It will be open seven-days-a-week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for vaccinations by appointment only.

“This mass vaccination hub will be convenient, free and an efficient way for community members to receive this valuable medicine for them to be taken care of,” Harper said. “Our communities are really depending on us. And as we all work to bring an end to the pandemic, there’s one thing we really want to emphasize, and that this is an equitable process, where there’s access to health care, which is a key component to solve our social as well as economic issues that we face in our communities and in our country.”

The ground floor of the 12,000 person-capacity arena has 36 vaccination stations set in three rows of 12 along with seating for people to be monitored for up to 30 minutes for any signs of allergic reactions to the vaccine. The arena also has 14 check-in stations to reduce lines as people arrive and confirm details for their appointments.

Stockton mayor Kevin Lincoln applauded the consortium’s efforts to open the hub.

“This is a wonderful step in the fight against COVID-19 for our Central Valley community,” Lincoln said. He thanked the workers from bus drivers to teachers that worked in what he called the “breadbasket” of California.

“This mass vaccination hub will help get these and other eligible workers vaccinated efficiently using the state’s myturn.ca.gov appointment website. The vaccine is safe, it’s effective and we all need to do our part to pull together to ensure that we sign up to get vaccinated, to be notified when it is our turn to be vaccinated.”

The Stockton site follows similar vaccination hubs opened by the consortium in Cal Poly Pomona in Los Angeles County, at California State University, Bakersfield and at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Those hubs have already administered more than 400,000 doses of vaccine to the general public since February.

The Stockton hub had originally been scheduled to open in late March, but a lack of enough vaccine delayed the opening.

Dr. Maggie Park, public health officer for San Joaquin County, told the crowd vaccination hubs like the Stockton site are accelerating the immunization of California’s eligible community members.

“It’s critically important that we make it easier for more people to get their COVID-19 vaccinations, especially in communities that have been disproportionality impacted by the coronavirus,” Park said. “Our Central Valley communities have some of the highest rates of COVID-19 infection and yet some of the lowest rates of vaccination. This high-volume site will serve anyone who is eligible regardless of health care coverage and that’s why I’m so excited to have this hub right here in our community where it’s so needed.”

Michael Williams, chief operating officer Dignity Health-St. Joseph’s Medical center spoke on behalf of the consortium and their efforts to establish the mass vaccination hubs.

“We have come together in a common cause. We’re hoping to help maximize the access to COVID-19 vaccinations especially for those communities that have been historically underserved when it comes to health and health care,” Williams said. “By joining forces, we are leveraging our collective resources and staff, aligning operations for efficient and safe vaccine delivery and offering a smooth and reliable experience for those who make their way to this center.”

During the tour on Tuesday afternoon three community members were given their vaccinations. Officials announced 1,500 people had already signed up for the hub’s first day on Wednesday through the Myturn.ca.gov site.

Dr. Sanjay Marwaha, physician in chief of Kaiser Permanente’s Central Valley service area, said he and his colleagues had seen and experienced the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Central Valley.

“As more and more of us become vaccinated we’re starting to feel more hopeful. As an official vaccine distributor, Kaiser Permanente is organized and prepared to administer COVID-19 vaccines through multiple channels as we continue to receive more supply. Working as part of the team outlined by the consortium partners this Stockton mass vaccination hub will allow us to vaccinate the many eligible community members efficiently, safely and quickly – it’s a wonderful thing,” Marwaha said. “When it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations Kaiser Permanente believes a focus on speed, supply and access is essential in slowing and eventually ending this horrible pandemic.”

On Wednesday, the San Joaquin Regional Transit District announced that it will provide free rides to the Stockton Arena in support of the mass vaccination hub.

The arena is on the Bus Rapid Transit Route 40 and is accessible by any RTD route. Being RTD’s most frequent route, it runs weekdays every 15 minutes during peak hours and every 20 minutes off peak hours and every 30 minutes during weekends.

To ride free, riders need to show a COVID-19 vaccination appointment confirmation when boarding the bus either on their phone or with a printout.

Officials said they will keep the hub operating as long as they have a vaccine supply – which is scheduled week-to-week – which will drive the appointment making process. Marwaha said they would continue to advocate to have vaccines for the Stockton mass vaccination site.

• Contact the Tracy Press at tpnews@tracypress.com or 835-3030.

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