Mercedes-Benz Stadium to be the largest mass vaccination center in the Southeast

Georgia State’s downtown campus is a 20-minute walk from Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where students can receive vaccinations for COVID-19. Photo by Matt Siciliano-Salazar | The Signal

This vaccination center opened officially on March 24 and will continue to operate until May 19 with variable hours and days for appointments. Mercedes-Benz Stadium plans to continue operating in its original capacity while also taking on the responsibility of being a vaccination center, meaning that there may be some variability in their hours of operation.

On March 23, 2021, Gov. Brian Kemp thanked the multi-agency coalition that made it possible to have a large mass vaccination center in the heart of downtown Atlanta.

“[This came from] all of us pulling together just to make this happen,” Kemp said.

On March 5, the White House Coronavirus Task Force announced Mercedes-Benz Stadium was working with local and federal government agencies to be the largest mass vaccination center in the southeast to combat COVID-19.

By the end of the eight-week period of their contract, Mercedes-Benz predicts that they will have administered over 336,000 vaccines and fully vaccinated over 210,000 individuals. They will be administering the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine for the first three weeks of operation, followed by the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine for another three weeks. Mercedes-Benz will administer the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine for the final two weeks of their contract.

“Here at this location, we had the necessary space for the team to serve and provide up to 6,000 doses a day. That [is] 42,000 doses a week,” Federal Emergency Management Agency acting administrator Robert Fenton said.

Fenton later said that the stadium’s location played a significant role in making it a mass vaccination site.

 “[It is] uniquely located to support those underserved people in the southeast of the metro area,” he said.

Mercedes-Benz is implementing what they call “barrier-free access” at the vaccination site. There will be weekend appointments and, on certain days, appointments as late as 10 p.m. There will be locations for free parking and walk-up capabilities for those who take Marta or walk from Georgia State’s campus. The facility is also ADA handicap accessible.

Over 700 people will be operating this site, and they will offer translation services to all those that need it.

“I hope that what the community sees represented here is a full commitment from every level of government to restore our community’s health,” Robb Pitts, Chairman of Fulton County, said.

Chairman Pitts expounded on the increase in accessibility by removing barriers such as not requiring an ID to be vaccinated and not needing to have insurance.

“There should be nothing holding anyone back,” he said.

Pitts also announced that the different agencies were doing outreach to Black and brown communities that have been disproportionately affected. 

“[We know that] Black and brown people have not been vaccinated at the same rate as others, [but we] must work to reverse that trend,” Pitts said. 

The stadium contains six pods or sections where they administer the vaccine. The stadium spread out the pods across three stadium levels, with five pods in constant use and the last used as overflow. Fulton County Board of Health operates pod one, and FEMA and the Department of Defense operate pods two through five, utilizing 220 active-duty military members onsite.

As vaccine production increases, many wonder where and how they can get their vaccines. Vaccines are becoming widely available at pharmacies and other health clinics, but their supplies cannot always handle the load of individuals seeking the vaccine. 

Thus, private companies have started working with multiple government agencies to create a safe, accessible location with a large stock of vaccines to create mass vaccination centers to ensure that everyone can get a vaccine who wants one.

The implementation of this mass vaccination site and the effort to make it accessible is a light at the end of the tunnel of this global pandemic. However, there are still those that fear the vaccine itself.

For those who fear the vaccine, Dr. Lynn Paxton, District Health Director of the Fulton County Board of Health, recommends visiting reputable sources like the Centers for Disease Control or the Georgia Department of Public Health website to learn more about the vaccine.

“I want to emphasize that these COVID vaccines are extraordinarily effective. They are safe, and they are our way out of this pandemic,” Dr. Paxton said.

Eligible parties can make appointments for the vaccine at the Georgia Department of Public Health website by clicking on the prominent display on the front page. 

If access to the internet is an issue, patients can make appointments by calling the Fulton County Board of Health’s access line at (404) 613-8150 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. If lines are busy, the Georgia Department of Public Health also has a scheduling resource line at (888) 457-0186.

With the Mercedes-Benz Stadium Community Vaccination Center opening, great emphasis was placed on the multiagency teamwork necessary to open the center. Collaboration between all individuals wearing masks and social distancing is still essential to get through this pandemic. 

As of March 25, the state of Georgia has expanded eligibility for vaccinations to all Georgians, allowing all adults over the age of 16 to be vaccinated.