As Virginia moves into Phase 2, public health officials shift messaging, approach to get more people vaccinated

COVID-19 Vaccine

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – It’s a moment over a year in the making, but the challenge now comes with changing the approach and messaging to encourage everyone to get vaccinated.

Starting April 18, Virginia shifted into Phase 2, allowing everyone over 16 to get vaccinated, two weeks ahead of the federal goal of May 1 set by President Biden.

FEMA Site Lead at the Military Circle vaccination Site Tim Smith says they’re having to shift their messaging in order to better reach different demographics who need to be vaccinated.

“We are seeing an uptick in 16 and 17-year-olds, which is really good news,” he said. “Pfizer is the only vaccine available to them and the parents are bringing them in and that’s very heartening to see.”

17-year-old Saniyya Giddens is one of those teens rolling up her sleeves to set an example for her peers.

“I want to show everyone my age that they should want to get vaccinated,” she said. “Plus, if a lot of people get vaccinated, we’ll be able to hang out with our friends again. And it’s about to be summertime.”

She said she’s missed out on a lot over the last year, including football games, homecoming, prom and cheerleading.

She says she wanted to get vaccinated so she can see her brother, whom she hasn’t seen in over a year because he’s stationed in California, and to see her friends again before heading off to college.

“A lot of people posting it on Instagram, on their stories, and stuff, so I think it’s more, like, about getting out there and actually, like, doing the deed instead of just talking about it,” she said. “And I think a lot of people don’t know where to get it and all that information.”

Luckily, Smith says their boots-on-the-ground outreach has been reaching communities who need the vaccine, and information on how to get it, most.

“It’s more reflective of the Hampton Roads area which is a majority-minority community,” he said. “So the African American, the Hispanic and Asian demographics are actually trending up here which is something we really like to see.”

Public health officials say now they’re expecting an uptick in vaccinations later this week, as people start coming in for walk-ins and for their second shots.

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