The largest COVID-19 vaccination site in the state will officially open Friday to members of the public — at least those who were able to make appointments on the Southern Nevada Health District’s website before it crashed.
The vaccination site at Cashman Center in Las Vegas had what was described as a by-invitation-only soft launch Thursday aimed at working out operational bugs, officials said at an on-site briefing. The site, operated by the health district, Clark County, Las Vegas and the Nevada National Guard, is expected eventually to be able to immunize several thousand people per day.
While emphasizing that the current priority groups for vaccinations continue to be medical and public safety personnel and residents 70 and older, officials acknowledged that other lower-priority “critical infrastructure” employees were offered shots Thursday to ensure a controlled flow of recipients during the day’s pilot project.
“There’s a lot of people out here today that have been boots on the ground since Day One, and I’m not going to feel guilty about any of them getting the vaccine,” said County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick, a member of the health district’s board of directors.
Those in the long line for shots included middle-age or older individuals, many of whom said they were from government agencies including the Department of Interior, Regional Transportation Commission and Nevada Gaming Control Board.
A 58-year-old secretary for the Las Vegas Valley Water District, who did not give her full name because she was not authorized to speak to news media, said an hour earlier that she and others in her office were asked if they wanted to get the shot so no vaccine would go to waste.
Also in line were some residents 70 and older who came to the site at the urging of friends who had gotten their shots after simply showing up without an appointment.
‘Not … sneaking in’
The operation was “painless and flawless,” said 80-year-old Jacqueline West, who got the shot with her husband in the afternoon.
“I did not feel like we were sneaking in,” West said, who was unaware that the site currently was not open to the public until told by a reporter. She said that she spent about an hour and 20 minutes in line but that things went smoothly. She did not witness anyone being turned away.
Officials stressed that moving forward, the site is intended to be by appointment-only, though Thursday there was no way to make an appointment because the Southern Nevada Health District’s appointment portal was down.
“As soon as we can get the health district’s registration program going, seniors will be able to go on there and register on that site,” said Capt. Noah Wheaton with the Clark County Fire Department. The technology component was a challenge with launching testing sites, he said, just as it has been with the immunization website.
“Like everywhere else across the country, we are struggling with IT issues,” Kirkpatrick said, adding that she expected the health district’s appointment site to resume working by Monday.
Wheaton said that employees with other critical infrastructure agencies could be invited to get shots on Friday and over the weekend if more people were needed to test the system.
More than 1,000 people received the vaccine at the site Thursday, and another 1,000 have appointments for Friday with 2,000 over the weekend, county spokeswoman Stacey Welling said in an email.
Meanwhile, other immunization sites also are opening:
* Henderson is signing up those 70 and older for shots that will be administered at Sun City Anthem. Information can be found at cityofhenderson.com/covid19/vaccine.
* A University Medical Center vaccination center at the Encore resort will start operations on Monday. Appointments can be scheduled online at umcsn.com/COVIDvaccine or by calling 702-383-2619.
* North Las Vegas is signing up city residents 70 and older using an online preregistration form at VaxNLV.com. Those needing help with the form can call 702-342-8417.
* The Southern Nevada Health District’s appointment scheduling can be found at covid.southernnevadahealthdistrict.org/vaccine/distribution.
Contact Mary Hynes at [email protected] or 702-383-0336. Follow @MaryHynes1 on Twitter.