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Health district plans for more targeted vaccination clinics

The transition to more targeted COVID-19 vaccinations is close at hand.

Speaking from Hub757 in North Suffolk, where the Western Tidewater Health District was hosting a vaccination event April 23, interim emergency manager Connor Smith said it is continuing with three events per week, especially for second-dose recipients, for at least the next two to three weeks.

But by mid-May, Smith expects that effort to ramp down as it looks to reach more vaccine-hesitant people.

Statewide, more than 3.6 million, or 42.9%, have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and more than 2.4 million, or 28.7%, have been fully vaccinated, according to Virginia Department of Health data posted April 26. There are 8,631,393 people living in Virginia, according to newly-released Census figures.

In Suffolk, 31,545 people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 21,064 people have been fully vaccinated. Among Isle of Wight County residents, 15,505 people have received at least one dose, and 10,906 people have been fully vaccinated. In Southampton County, 5,951 people have received at least one dose and 4,102 people have been fully vaccinated, while in Franklin, 2,980 people have received at least one dose, and 2,100 have been fully vaccinated.

The district is planning a large-scale homebound population campaign for all four localities — Suffolk, Franklin, Isle of Wight and Southampton — similar to the Suffolk Meals on Wheels campaign that vaccinated 23 city residents in March and April. Smith said the district is pulling together the rest of the Meals on Wheels data to help coordinate it.

“We’re heading in that direction, and we’re trying to make sure those plans all make sense,” Smith said.

The district is also transitioning to having the public use the website vaccinefinder.org for people to book their vaccine appointments. Smith said many people surveyed from its pre-registration database had not heard of the website, even though vaccine appointments were readily available on it.

When he input his own information April 23, Smith said he could have scheduled about a half-dozen same-day vaccine appointments in Western Tidewater.

And, similar to its pop-up COVID-19 testing sites, Smith said the district is planning pop-up vaccination clinics for the second half of May, going into June.

“We’re going to try and make it as easy as we can for people to get the vaccine,” Smith said. “We’re going to try and take the show on the road as much as feasible.”

Pharmacies throughout Western Tidewater are showing available appointments now.

The Medical Reserve Corps volunteers themselves have administered more than 20,000 vaccine doses, and the district’s clinical staff has been assisting them. He said every week, there has been a 2- to 3-percent jump in those who are fully vaccinated in every district locality.

“We’re climbing that ladder as quickly as I think can be done,” Smith said. “The health department is fully booked. We are working at our maximum capacity here to push out vaccines.”

Two Isle of Wight County clinics will provide the Moderna vaccine this Monday on a first-come, first-served basis, with no appointment needed and no registration needed, according to a Facebook post from Isle of Wight County.

There are two locations for the Monday clinics:

  • Rushmere Fire Station, 5354 Old Stage Highway (Route 10), Smithfield, from 9 to 11 a.m.
  • Carrsville Fire Station, 6201 Carrsville Highway (Route 58), Carrsville, from 2 to 4 p.m.

To schedule a vaccine appointment at another location, go to vaccinefinder.org.