VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Wednesday, June 16 was the last day the Virginia Beach Convention Center operated as a community vaccination center.
People were few and far between and the long lines were gone. The clinic closed at 5:30 p.m., marking the end of its distribution of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.
There has been a pivot in the vaccination process. That’s because the dynamic of vaccination has changed: The big footprint vaccination centers like the Convention Center have served their purpose.
“We now know there are vaccinations at the pharmacies, grocery stores, you can go online to find the nearest location to get a vaccination,” said Acting District Health Director for Virginia Beach and Norfolk Dr. Parham Jaberi.
Jaberi said people can go to the Vaccinate Virginia website — vaccinate.virginia.gov — to find other places to get a shot.
Jaberi is wearing many hats these days. He is also the chief deputy commissioner of Community Health Services at the Virginia Department of Health.
He said the large community vaccination center sites are too costly and not enough people are showing up these days.
“This is, by no means, ‘we no longer need to vaccinate our community.’ It’s just having this very large site is costing our taxpayers… We don’t need the structure in the form we have had at the convention center,” Jaberi said.
The Newport News community vaccination center on Warwick Boulevard closed on Thursday, and the Hampton Coliseum site closes Saturday.
Jenay Joquin was one of the last to visit the Convention Center.
“As a nurse, I think it is important to get vaccinated. I do think that for the people in the health care industry… there’s just so much going on, there was a lot of unknown … on why people aren’t getting vaccinated,” Joquin said.
Statistics show nearly 60% of Virginia has been fully vaccinated, still a way from the 70% herd immunity set as a goal by July 4. However, nearly 70% of Virginians have received their first vaccine dose.
The fact is, enthusiasm is waning with large groups of unvaccinated people like young people Jaberi said.
“For whatever reasons, they choose not to participate. Some people say they are young and healthy. Why do I need the vaccine? They may say ‘I already had COVID and I’m fine’ [or have] distrust of government,” Jaberi said.
Jaberi said shutting down all the large community vaccination centers is needed because they are not getting the numbers they once did.
“We are no longer focusing all our vaccinations at one site. We are spreading them across Virginia Beach, working with community partners, carrying on many smaller operations at one time,” Jaberi said.
It appears to be time to pivot to mobile outreach events.
“We have been going to various sites, and we might only get 10 to 15. It is a pop-up clinic. We provide the vaccinations to show up and serve the underserved communities,” he said.
But Jaberi said beginning Tuesday, there will be a new collaborative community vaccination center at Military Circle.
The clinics will be held on a weekly basis on Tuesdays and Thursday at least through the end of July. Walk-ins will be accepted, but advanced registration is encouraged.