Virginia’s Vaccine Coordinator signals turning point in vaccine rollout due to supply, walk-in clinics


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HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC)— People no longer have to worry about long lines or scheduling appointments to receive the vaccine, because Virginia health officials say walk-in clinics and exceeding supply are creating better access.

Dr. Danny Avula, Virginia’s COVID-19 Vaccine Coordinator, said this week supply is exceeding demand all across the state. Therefore, most areas are capable of opening walk-in clinics to vaccinate every phase group.

The Richmond International Raceway hosted its first official walk-up clinic Friday. Zach Zellmer, the Raceway’s vaccine events Incident Commander, said the goal of the walk-up clinic is to remove barriers to the vaccine from those struggling with technology, phones or those who speak a different language.

“We have plenty of vaccines on hand to handle anyone who comes up,” he said.

Nearly 1,000 people preregistered for a shot at the Raceway Friday.

Zellmer said although anyone can get vaccinated they will prioritize those with appointments. Dr. Avula said by April 18 the state was just catching up to the demand of vaccines, now we’re seeing a turning point.

“Everybody has excess vaccines and so again to that point of convenience, we want people to go wherever they can,” he said.

Allen Keyes, a walk-up patient at the Raceway event, said he’s been waiting for a call back to schedule his first shot.

“I just wanted my life back. I wanted it to get back to normal,” he said. “I don’t want to have to wear a mask, because I want to get back to a normal lifestyle.”.

Matthew Morgans, who received his second Pfizer shot Friday, said he’d rather experience side effects from the vaccine than symptoms from the virus.

“I just hope everybody does it so we can take these things off and get back to some semblance of normalcy, but that’s all we can really hope for,” he said.

Dajahna Smith walked into the vaccination clinic for her first shot. She said the workers made her feel calm and comfortable. Now she’s looking forward to being outdoors again.

“It’s a big step and like it would just make you feel more confident in being out,” said Smith.

In addition to walk-up clinics, Avula said during a briefing on Friday that Virginia will be pushing more vaccines to other locations such as primary care providers, mobile clinics and community pop ups.

According to Avula, almost everyone who has pre-registered for a vaccine has been offered an appointment.

Avula explained that surveys show people trust their PCPs. With the help of the federal government, PCPs in Virginia will be getting more vaccine doses. Pfizer will be reducing the number of doses that come in each vaccine tray to make it easier for small providers to access the vaccine. He is planning for more providers to e able to take small amounts of vaccine to administer to patients.

VDH is instructing PCPs to carry over extra vaccines to the next week if they aren’t able to fill all of their appointments one week.

As for pop-up clinics, the vaccine coordinator says they are looking at offering vaccinations at places like farmers markets and polling locations during the upcoming June elections for convenience.

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