NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The rollout of the first COVID-19 shots sounded good on paper.

You register online and then show up at your local pharmacy. When patients showed up for their appointments at Peoples Pharmacy in the heart of historic Church Street in Norfolk, most of the patients were not from the surrounding community, according to pharmacy owner Dr. Anna Peoples.

“What they would do was schedule appointments for their entire neighborhoods, and we didn’t have room for people in this [Huntersville] community,” Peoples said.


Peoples and other trusted partners, including the Norfolk Health Department and the pastors of Second Calvary Baptist Church and First Baptist Berkley, got to work to get shots in arms.

Pastors and nurses went door-to-door, church-to-church, and even to unwalled places such as Chapel Street outside downtown Norfolk to vaccinate a total of 22,000 underserved people. The CDC crystallized the effort.

“To be selected for the entire state of Virginia is quite an honor,” Peoples said. The honor comes as a new variant has COVID-19 hospitalizations up 24% for the beginning of this month, according to a recent report in the New York Times.

Peoples is concerned that many who have chronic diseases will once again end up at the back of the line because many shots will no longer be free by the end of September.

“With the federal funding being withdrawn from the vaccine, I just hope we are not going back full circle,” Peoples said.

She urges the people of Hampton Roads, especially those who are uninsured or underinsured, to get the COVID-19 vaccine now while free shots are still available.

This fall, new vaccines will be offered commercially, and after December 2024, the CDC will no longer offer free COVID-19 shots, according to information provided by the Virginia Department of Health.