Health district plans for more targeted vaccination clinics

Published 9:49 pm Monday, April 26, 2021

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 operations 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.”

Churches in Suffolk will also be hosting vaccine clinics in the next week. During the city’s On the Scene program April 26, four pastors from city churches encouraged people to get the COVID-19 vaccination. 

“We’re trying to reach the most vulnerable populations and communities so that everyone will be guaranteed vaccinations and that our city will be free of the pandemic,” said the Rev. Sylvia Copeland-Murphy, an assistant pastor at Oak Grove Baptist Church. 

Rev. Dr. Steven Blunt, a pastor at First Baptist Church Mahan Street, said the church is excited to host the clinic. 

“This gives us an opportunity not only for our downtown community,” Blunt said, “but also for our demographic in joining with our city churches and our fellow sisters in Christ to make sure that we have a wonderful kind of embrace and advocacy, really, to make sure that we’re doing our job in leading — the faith community has always led in times (like) these — to make sure we’re leading to make sure that people are vaccinated, that they can see that we are also standing behind the advocacy as well.”

Pharmacies throughout Western Tidewater, the city’s community vaccination center at the Hilton Garden Inn—Suffolk Riverfront and the Suffolk Health Department, were showing available vaccination appointments available as of April 26. 

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.”

Upcoming vaccination clinics in Suffolk

  • May 3 — Oak Grove Baptist Church, 2635 E. Washington St., will be hosting a clinic in partnership with CVS Health from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. To book an appointment, visit cvs.co/VA-May3-8a or cvs.co/VA-May3-8b or call the church at 757-539-8012. 
  • May 4 — First Baptist Church Mahan Street, 112 Mahan St., will be hosting a clinic in partnership with CVS Health from 2 to 6 p.m. To book an appointment, go to cvs.co/VA-May4-9 or call the church at 757-539-6623.  
  • May 5 — East End Baptist Church, 1056 Portsmouth Blvd., will be hosting a clinic in partnership with CVS Health from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. To book an appointment, go to cvs.co/VA-May5-14a or cvs.co/VA-May5-14b or call the church at 757-539-3324. 
  • May 6 — Mount Sinai Baptist Church, 1600 Holy Neck Road, will be hosting a clinic in partnership with CVS Health from noon to 4 p.m. To book an appointment, visit cvs.co/VA-May6-11 or call the church at 757-657-6212. 

To schedule a vaccine appointment, go to vaccinefinder.org