Soldiers step up to support mass vaccination clinic


HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC)—Members of the Virginia National Guard are training at the Richmond Raceway to support the Henrico mass vaccination clinic.

Right now, 33 national guard members are training for two weeks in roles like traffic control and parking, data entry and patient check-in.

Lieutenant Colonel Juanita Rohler said 250 soldiers are training across the state at local health district’s vaccination sites. She’s the taskforce commander for the group of service members training to support vaccination efforts all over the state.

“The end goal of getting every Virginian vaccinated and that in itself is historical,” she said. “Just being able to be part of the solution for the pandemic and getting Virginians back to work, back to school and back in the community.”

After the two-week training period, the Virginia COVID-19 Unified Command will send the national guard members to different community vaccination centers. Jackson Baynard, Chief of Emergency Management in Henrico County, said they will need continued support from the national guard after the training period.

“We’ll make requests through VDEM and the Virginia National Guard to extend it,” he said.

Dennis Bickmeier, President of the Richmond Raceway, said last week more than 4,000 people were vaccinated in one day.

“It’s a major logistical operation,” he said. “Who does that better than the United States Army?”

Bickmeier hopes the extra manpower can supply the demand and allow them to administer over 5,000 vaccine shots in one day. He said he’s considering the use of a drive-thru vaccination clinic and opening other buildings at the Raceway to accommodate more people.

“As the vaccine opens to more of the general population, there are opportunities to expand to some of our other buildings on the other side of the parking lot as well as drive through,” Bickmeier said.

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