HAMPTON ROADS, Va (WAVY) — To boost vaccination numbers, state and local health experts are pairing up with local faith leaders to educate communities on the COVID-19 vaccine. The goal is to encourage people to get out and get vaccinated.
The organization “Celebrate Healthcare” is kicking off a weekly virtual event focused on educating communities on the COVID-19 vaccine.
In the first meeting Monday, faith leaders from across Hampton Roads heard from Virginia’s vaccine distribution coordinator, Dr. Danny Avula.
“As of this morning, just under 1.4 million doses delivered,” said Dr. Avula.
Dr. Avula started the meeting noting that the past six to seven weeks have been a whirlwind, but he wants to assure everyone that progress is being made, progress with how many vaccines we are receiving.
“Over the last three weeks, we have seen slight uptick in the amount of vaccine that we’re receiving. We started maybe the middle of January at 105,000 doses this week. That’s up to 130,000 doses,” he said.
They also discussed how people will get access to the vaccinations.
“So we activated something called the “retail pharmacy partnership,” where the federal government is giving vaccine directly to CVS for now; other pharmacies down the road,” said Dr. Avula.
CVS began holding appointments for the vaccine last week.
“CVS is using only an online registration platform, which means that folks who don’t have the internet or don’t have, you know, the ability to figure out how to get up early and refresh appointments and see what opens up, they’re going to be challenged to get to some of those populations,” he said.
Faith leaders raised questions about how minority and underserved communities will be able to access the vaccinations.
“One of the things that I’m concerned about is that many of our members may not have accessibility to some of the centers [where the] vaccine is currently being given. So how can we as churches play a greater role?” asked Dr. Dwight Riddick, the senior pastor of Gethsemane Baptist Church in Newport News.
“I think a tight linkage with your local health department, to make sure that you can be part of getting our most vulnerable residents to vaccinations,” answered Avula.
Avula said this includes education on the upcoming centralized registration process and transportation for those who are immobile.
10 On Your Side asked if CVS had plans to provide mobile vaccination centers. Dr. Avula said that while other pharmacies have started this in other parts of the state, CVS does not currently have plans for this in our region. He added that health departments are working to figure out how it can be done.
Avula mentioned the governor will be providing more information on the new registration system later this week. Gov. Northam is expected to speak on Wednesday, Feb. 17.
This was the first of several discussions to be hosted every week.