Newest vaccine clinic on the Peninsula hopes to increase access to vaccine by breaking communication, accessibility barriers

Newport News

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — The race to vaccinate continues on the Virginia Peninsula with the addition of the newest community vaccine clinic in Newport News.

The site, located at the Sherwood Shopping Center, 13785 Warwick Boulevard in Newport News, is run through a partnership with the Virginia Department of Health and AshBritt-IEM Health.

Jason Fawcett, the vice president of operations for AshBritt-IEM Health, says their goal is to address the community’s needs for equity, tackling communication and accessibility needs.

“Whether that’s through sign language or whatever, it’s very challenging to maybe have a physical person in a space all day that can speak Mandarin, or Spanish or Portuguese or whatever the case may be,” he said.

The site is equipped with multiple mobile AMA Translation machines to improve communication between patients and healthcare staff.

A patient would choose the language out of 160 listed and it makes a call to a live translator.

“I think it’s important from our perspective just to be able to service anyone and everybody that comes through the door,” he said.

Not everyone got a shot who walked in the door Tuesday.

Some people who believed they could receive a Moderna booster shot expressed confusion and frustration.

Douglas Foltz from Newport News is eager to get his booster shot after getting COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated.

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“As I was walking out, someone else came in and they said, the guy behind the desk said, ‘There’s another Moderna patient and we don’t have the vaccine yet,'” said Foltz.

The only vaccine authorized for a booster shot is the Pfizer shot. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have not gotten approval for their booster shots yet.

Still, Foltz says trying to understand what’s available has raised a lot of questions.

“There’s been a lot of question marks about this whole thing. And that’s my story and it’s just, confusing, disgusting, and it’s just mind-boggling what you got to do to get it,” he said.

The site offers the Johnson & Johnson one-dose shot as well as first and second doses of Pfizer and Moderna. 

Three lines allow for easier access inside, one for walk-ins, one for appointments and one for those with disabilities.

Organizers say they’re anticipating longer lines once the vaccines and boosters are more widely available.

“When the Moderna booster is available […] and the kids from 5 to 11, we anticipate the clinic seeing a substantial uptick in people,” he said.

The clinic is open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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