Virginia Community Comes Together to Achieve High Vaccination Rate

Strong partnerships between organizations and a community that's in it for the long haul are the reasons many believe this semi-rural community is leading Virginia's effort to distribute vaccines

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One of the most successful vaccination sites in Virginia isn’t in a heavily populated area, but in the health district that runs through Winchester into Shenandoah.

The area has one of the vaccination rate highest per capita in the state and nearly twice as high of a vaccination rate than Northern Virginia’s suburbs.

Valley Health, which operates hospitals and clinics in the area, has longstanding partnerships with both the Lord Fairfax Health District and Shenandoah University, which allowed them to hit the ground running in setting up the mass vaccination site.

“We said, ‘You know, gee, we could use a big venue.’ And SU said, ‘We’ve got our gym. You can use our gym.’ Valley Health said, ‘Great, we got the people,’ and I said, ‘Great, I’ll find the vaccines,’” said Dr. Colin Greene of the Lord Fairfax Health District.

Tracy Fitzsimmons, Shenandoah University’s president, believes that the fact they’re in a semi-rural community actually gives them an advantage.

“We’re semi-rural. We often have to do things by ourselves,” she said. “We don’t wait and wait and wait for the federal government or the commonwealth to give us all the instructions. We do our best to jump ahead to serve our own folks.”

The amount of people in the community volunteering to administer vaccines has been overwhelming. University professors, coaches, doctors, neurosurgeons and retired nurses are all stepping up.

Clinics are being set up in more rural parts of the health district in an effort to vaccinate as many people as possible. Data entry has also been streamlined by both the clinics and the site at Shenandoah University through the new online registration system being used statewide.

Although there is currently a shortage of vaccines, the Shenandoah University site is in it for the long haul.

“It’s magic happening,” said Dr. Jeff Feit of Valley Health. “It’s the community taking care of itself. It’s the most incredible thing I’ve been a part of in a long time.”

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