Chesterfield doctor needs patients for his vaccine supply; VDH changes vaccine distribution, outreach strategy

Coronavirus

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va (WRIC) – The Virginia Department of Health is changing their approach when it comes to distributing vaccines.

They are trying to reach people who may not have looked for an appointment, who don’t have access to the vaccine or may be hesitant to get it. To do this, VDH will soon begin distributing more vaccines to primary care doctors.

With supply outpacing demand in certain places, they’ll also distribute more vaccines to mobile clinics and smaller vaccination sites.

One doctor in Chesterfield told 8News continuing to distribute the vaccine is paramount to reaching herd immunity or 75% of the population vaccinated. However, what’s changing is where the vaccines are being delivered to.

Dr. Amar Shah, of VitalCare Family Practice in Chesterfield, said staff was inundated with phone calls and their schedules were full of patients requesting the COVID-19 vaccine at the begining of the rollout.

However, Dr. Shah said that’s changed over the last few weeks as 60 percent of his patients have already been vaccinated.

“Many patients who don’t show up for their appointment or cancel then it’s hard for us to find a patient to get vaccinated,” he said.

Dr. Amar Shah speaks with a woman about the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, after she expressed concerns over side effects from the vaccine. (Photo: 8News Reporter Sabrina Shutters)

At his office, the vaccine supply right now is greater than the demand.

Dr. Shah said the biggest issue is to break down barriers to care. Those barriers are something VDH is working to break down, now also pushing more doses to mobile clinics and neighborhood centers.

Despite a staffing shortage, Dr. Shah said he hopes to do a similar kind of outreach.

“If we can offer vaccines after hours, on the weekends, if we can go to patients’ homes to give them the vaccine to provide ease of access, I think those would be the next steps,” he told 8News Monday.

Cat Long with Richmond and Henrico Health Districts said in order to make sure they’re giving access to everyone to reach herd immunity, they’ll start offering smaller vaccination sites in more locations rather than just a couple of larger sites.

Richmond and Henrico Health Districts have seen a steady slowdown of our pre-registration lists and live website and phone scheduling options.

Long said the district is also adding more walk-up options and are re-distributing some vaccine doses to independent pharmacies and other health care providers.

The health district expects the shift will reduce travel, the need for prior planning and allow individuals to receive or find out about vaccines through trusted and familiar sources. 

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