By Jan Carabeo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A new COVID-19 mass vaccination site officially opened Wednesday morning at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The site will be open 12 hours a day, seven days a week for the next eight weeks.

It’s all in an effort to give Philadelphia a fighting chance against the coronavirus.

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When the doors opened at 8 a.m. Wednesday, the line to get vaccinated stretched all the way down the side of the building.

“I’m finally here. I’m finally here,” Sarah Pierre Louis, of Northeast Philly, said.

Sarah Pierre Louis was one of the first in line.

“They called me the other morning, and I’m like ‘yes!,’ They told me to come down,” she said.

She and others here have been anxiously awaiting their turn to get vaccinated.

Many having trouble getting an appointment anywhere before today.

“I’ve been trying for the last month. But I knew once they come down to the convention center everything would work out pretty good,” Willie Lafayette, of West Philadelphia, said.

The Pennsylvania Convention Center is now home to the city’s latest mass vaccination site. The convention center site can administer 6,000 shots a day. That’s 500 shots an hour.

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“In six weeks, that’ll bring us to close to a quarter-million people,” Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke said.

It’s run in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and staffed by members of the U.S. military.

“It’s an honor and privilege,” Marine Corps 1st Lt. Kevin Stapleton said. “We join the military to give back to the country, and it’s not every day that we get to serve right here at home.”

The Pfizer vaccine is being administered at the Center City site, and it comes from a federal allotment.

Meaning the Philadelphia Health Department will still be able to use to city’s allotment at other sites across Philadelphia.

“That gives us a chance to take the vaccine and set up in other neighborhoods in the city,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said.

FEMA says the Center City location was chosen for a number of reasons, focusing on accessibility and equity.

“It’s on major SEPTA public transit lines. There is parking available, and more importantly, it’s got the square footage requirement that we need,” FEMA External Affairs Officer Charlie Elison said.

Eyewitness News was at the convention center Tuesday during a soft opening where thousands of essential workers rolled up their sleeves. And that included roughly 1,600 SEPTA employees who were vaccinated in just four hours.

Meantime, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas made the rounds. He notes communities of color are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and the hope is this site will help reach vulnerable populations.

“Your socioeconomic status, your race, ethnicity, access to transportation or immigration status should not impact whether you’re able to receive a vaccine,” Mayorkas said.

The city is still only vaccinating people who fall into categories 1A and 1B. You must have an appointment to get a shot here. No walk-ins are allowed. Once you show up, you need an ID or a piece of mail that verifies your identity and residency.

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