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Thousands Of COVID-19 Vaccine Doses At Pennsylvania Convention Center In Danger Of Going To Waste

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The clock is ticking. About 3,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are in danger of going to waste at FEMA's mass vaccination site at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

City officials say the FEMA site at the convention center will extend its hours and stay open until 7:30 p.m.

The line outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Wednesday was nothing compared to just a couple of weeks ago when people struggled to find a vaccine in the city of Philadelphia.

Still, Luis Ramirez wasn't taking any chances and made sure he was the first to get his shot at the Convention Center Wednesday morning.

"I want to make sure that I'm safe for myself and safe for others," Ramirez said.

FEMA officials who run the Center City site say this is the first week lines have been this short.

And now, there's concern supply is outpacing demand.

"We did see a sudden and sharp decline in the quantity of people coming out," FEMA External Affairs Officer Charlie Elison said. "The city has a lot of vaccines in cold storage that do have to get used in a very short timeline."

FEMA Vaccination Site At Pennsylvania Convention Center

In fact, citywide, health officials say roughly 3,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine are now in jeopardy of expiring if they're not administered by Thursday.

Eyewitness News was at Centennial Pharmacy on Delaware Avenue on Tuesday as health care workers rushed to get shots in arms. But by the end of the day, more than 500 doses expired and had to be thrown out.

"We just didn't have that big push so that's where we feel the enthusiasm of the vaccine is starting to dwindle," said Dr. Joseph Dymowski, with Centennial Pharmacy Services.

Once a vaccine vile has been opened, those doses inside have a short span where they can be used.

At the Center City mass vaccination site that hasn't happened yet.

"But there could be a point in the future where that does happen, so we just encourage everyone to get their vaccine. Lots of opportunities for walk-ups," Elison said.

It's a concern because only 34% of the city has received a first dose, and just 22% are fully vaccinated.

"We've mitigated as many barriers as we can. At the end of the day, vaccines are a personal decision so obviously, we respect everyone's personal decision," Elison said.

Health officials say it's a worrisome trend happening nationally. According to the CDC, the daily average for vaccinations has dropped 20% since the start of the month.

"The people who are not vaccinated yet are people who prefer to be vaccinated closer to home," Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said.

But there's also an issue with vaccine hesitancy, people who are afraid or refuse to get vaccinated.

"It really is relieving to have this vaccine," singer/songwriter John Legend said.

In an effort to get more people vaccinated, icons like Legend are encouraging people to follow their lead.

"I want to get back with my family, I wanna see my older family members and not fear for their health and safety," Legend said.

If you have not been vaccinated or are waiting for your second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, head to the convention center.

No appointment is needed. The doors are open to everyone 16 and older who lives or works in the city.

The site is using the Pfizer vaccine and will administer first shots, as well as second doses to those who need it.

On Saturday, the site will offer Johnson and Johnson's one-dose vaccine by appointment.

"If that goes well, we'll continue to do Johnson & Johnson. We want to see what the demand will be like," Elison said.

On its busiest day, health officials at the convention center say it could take up to an hour and a half to get through the line and get a shot. With current demand, it's only expected to take 30 minutes.

CBS3's Jan Carabeo and Stephanie Stahl contributed to this report.

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