Vax the Valley: Local effort to boost COVID-19 vaccine numbers

Vax the Valley
Photo courtesy Augusta Health.

More than six in 10 Virginians have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccines that are available, but we’re lagging behind locally.

An analysis of numbers from the Virginia Department of Health website has Augusta County, Staunton and Waynesboro at just 51.9 percent vaccine saturation, well below the 70 percent target that the science and health communities have set.

Good news: Laura Lee Wight, the population health community coordinator at the Central Shenandoah Health District, said there has been an uptick in the past two weeks in requests for first vaccine shots.

“That’s a really great trend to see. That means that more people are deciding to get their COVID-19 vaccine,” said Wight, who is preparing for the second in a series of Vax the Valley events, set for Saturday from 1-7 p.m. at Barren Ridge Vineyards in Augusta County.

The first Vax the Valley event, held in Downtown Staunton last weekend, resulted in 34 first-time COVID-19 vaccinations.

Statewide, we’re still seeing demand for vaccines well below the early April peak. The VDH data dashboard has us distributing 12,149 vaccine shots per day as of an update on Friday morning. The peak came on April 2, when the seven-day average was 85,990.

The numbers are ticking up as the concerns have risen over the new delta variant of the COVID-19 virus.

“I think a lot of people are worried about the delta variant, as they should be, in regards to being exposed to COVID-19 in your community, when you kind of felt like you might have been a little safe,” Wight said.

But it’s not all bad stuff motivating people to seek the protections of the vaccines.

“Also I think people are seeing their neighbors, their friends, family, their fellow co-workers getting the vaccine, they see that it’s safe, and they feel comfortable now getting it,” Wight said.

The Central Shenandoah Health District is continuing to engage with community partners and community organizations to provide COVID-19 vaccine clinics throughout the community.

Vax the Valley is a collaborative effort of the health district and Augusta Health, for example.

“We also have COVID-19 vaccine clinics at our offices throughout the health district,” Wight said. “But more importantly, we’re also really trying to have one-on-one conversations with individuals about any sort of questions they have about the vaccine and hopefully address any vaccine hesitancy they have, and doing this through going to community events, engaging with community leaders. We have a community information team that’s going door-to-door and providing information about upcoming clinics and having these conversations about the COVID-19 vaccine.

“When you look at the adult population within Staunton, Augusta, Waynesboro, who have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, we’re hovering around 64 percent. That’s great,” Wight said. “I mean, honestly, we need to really celebrate the progress that we’ve made in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. We still have some ways to go, and so these events really allow for us and the community to celebrate how far we’ve come and also provide us with an opportunity to go even further.”

Story by Chris Graham

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