KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Within 45 minutes of opening, Knox County's first COVID-19 vaccination clinic reached its 500 dose capacity and turned away hundreds looking to get a coronavirus shot.
"I'm sorry folks, that's all we have for today," a Knox County Health Department representative told dozens of people, some of whom waited in line for hours to get a shot.
But for those who were able to get a spot, it was a moment months in the making.
"I've already texted a bunch of a lot of people telling them that that I got it!" Marye Rose said excitedly. "I know that we still have to be careful... but at least I feel some assurance with it."
Edwin Jenkins showed up on Thursday evening — nearly 40 hours in advance — to make sure he got his shot.
"I want this to be behind me. I want it to be over with," Jenkins told 10News. "This is a giant step to do that."
The Dobson brothers were next in line, showing up Friday evening.
"I've had three close relatives die of COVID," Jerry Dobson said. "It's just very important to me to get it."
Most people were excited for their opportunity at getting vaccinated but frustrated by the long line and crowds.
"Some of us are pulling along the curb and just sitting in the car to try to stay warm and not get tired," Alan Schwartz said. "[By 6:45 a.m.] it was already lined up around a building. We're not teenagers, we're talking about 75 and seniors."
Dr. Martha Buchanan said she supported the first-come-first-serve approach used on Saturday.
"Setting something up quickly and making it first-come-first-serve was really the easiest way to do that," she said. "People made a choice to come here and stand in line and made a choice about whether they social distance or not."
She said she was excited to see the high demand from the community.
"I'm kind of excited to see the line," Dr. Buchanan said. "I'm happy to see that we're going to have good vaccine uptake because that's what it's going to take for us to, as a community, move beyond COVID-19."
The Health Department said it plans more vaccination events in the future, including opening up appointment slots to avoid long lines. You can call 865-215-5555 for more information.
The Knox County Health Department said they have 500 doses to administer to people who qualified for this phase of the vaccine rollout. That includes people aged 75 and over, healthcare workers, and first responders.
The KCHD said this is only the first of many vaccine clinics to come, so there will be an opportunity for everyone to get the shot. Some of those future clinics will be by appointment only.
If you live outside Knox County, you can call 865-549-5343 to register for an appointment, and will be notified of your appointment date, time and location when your county moves into the phase of the vaccination plan in which they fit.
Knox County will hold the first of many COVID-19 vaccination clinics Saturday for those who currently qualify to get the shot, including people age 75 or older.
You do NOT need to be a Knox County resident to attend the clinic. Anyone who fits the vaccination criteria will be accepted regardless of county of residence.
The Knox County Health Department announced the clinic Wednesday. It'll be 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Expo Center on Clinton Highway while supplies last.
In other words, it's first-come, first-served.
"There will be 500 doses of the Moderna vaccine available for those who meet the criteria," according to the department's announcement.
The change comes following new guidance from state health authorities about the state's master vaccination plan. As part of the updated plan, for example, teachers are going to be able to get a shot faster than originally expected.
Besides people who are 75 or older, those who qualify right now to get the shot fall within the Phase 1a1/Phase 1a2 criteria. That includes in-patient health care providers, first responders with direct exposure to the public, residents and staff members of long-term care facilities, mortuary staff as well as those who primarily work in out-patient health care settings.
Individuals 75 and older who wish to receive the vaccine need to bring a valid form of identification proving their age.
"Individuals who meet the Phase 1a1 or 1a2 criteria need to bring proof of employment," according to the Health Department.
Those within Phase 1a1 and 1a2 already scheduled to receive the vaccine through KCHD next week will need to keep their standing appointment.
"Saturday’s clinic is for those who meet the criteria and do not have a scheduled appointment to receive the vaccine."
More clinics will follow as the county gets more batches of the vaccine.
KCHD said people who are feeling ill or who have symptoms should NOT come to the clinic.
Because the vaccines come in two doses, those who receive their first vaccine Saturday will receive a card with a reminder on when they should get their second shot. Those people will need to get it through KCHD as well to ensure they don't receive a different brand of vaccine.