PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — Crater District health officials are responding to data showing people in several of its eight localities are getting vaccinated slower than any other areas of the state.
According to data from the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP), Prince George and Hopewell rank as the two last localities on a list examining how many Virginians per 100,000 have been vaccinated. Before them is Manassas Park city and then Dinwiddie, another Crater locality. Not far above them is Crater’s Petersburg and the city of Emporia. Highest on the list is Northampton county.
8News is pressing for answers on why Crater is vaccinating fewer people and what those in charge are doing about it.
Tuesday, the district’s Acting Chief Operating Officer Jay Baxton and Director Dr. Alton Hart acknowledged that several of their cities and counties are lagging behind the rest of the state.
“Those four are kind of hovering at the bottom and we realize that,” Baxton said.
Dr. Hart said being a geographically large district with a shortage of resources, like staffing, plays a huge role.
“As you can imagine in terms of resources, trying to move that process across eight localities can be a challenge,” he said.
Dr. Hart said “it’s possible” but unlikely that vaccine hesitancy has anything to do with the ranking, considering appointments for vaccines are full.
Many of the Crater district’s communities are predominantly black or older, which doctors say makes them more likely to die from the virus if they get it. Dr. Hart said his team is taking factors like those into account.
“We recognize that our efforts really need to be strategic in those localities that have had high rates of COVID-19,” he said.
Over the last couple weeks, thousands have been vaccinated inside events at VSU.
On Wednesday, the state’s largest mass-vaccination center will open in the university’s multi-purpose center.
Workers spent Tuesday setting up and getting trained. Governor Ralph Northam’s office said the state chose Virginia State for the Community Vaccination Center (CVC) because it’s located in a vulnerable community that needs “an extra boost” to get vaccines. The center is funded by FEMA.
Appointments there will take people off of current waiting lists. 150 people contracted through a vendor will be running this center on Monday through Saturday, staffed by the Virginia National Guard, local medical reserve corps and volunteers.
Officials tell us the CVC will start by administering 3,000 per day but has the capacity to eventually increase that to 6,000 per day.
They’ll be vaccinating people in phase 1b in both the Chesterfield and Crater health districts, which Dr. Hart and Baxter said will be a game changer.
“We have no doubt that our numbers are gonna go up,” Baxter said.
Dr. Hart and Baxter said meanwhile, they’re constantly rethinking other strategies. They’ve recently combined some localities together for mass-vax events, similar to what Richmond and Henrico did from the start.
“We can get a…. bigger volume for every event that we do,” Baxter said. They added they’re also increasing the amount of partnerships with pharmacies, health care centers and churches.
“We are looking forward to those partnerships increasing even more,” Dr. Hart said.
Vaccine supply has not met the demand among many communities. However, the officials said a constantly increasing vaccine supply is also lifting their spirits.
Dr. Hart reminds people still waiting for a vaccine to make sure that their information is all up to date on VDH’s pre-registration form. They said that definitely plays a role in when you will get the vaccine.