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Church, Hampton University partner for COVID-19 vaccine and testing clinic in Portsmouth

St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church offered more than 1,000 Pfizer first and second doses Saturday.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — It was a good day for Victor Smith. 

"I am 100 percent vaccinated as of today," said Smith.  

Smith received his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine two weeks ago on April 3. In celebration, he volunteered to help others get vaccinated at St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church in Portsmouth. 

"This is vaccine is important," he said. 

Saturday, the church partnered with Hague Pharmacy and Hampton University for a COVID-19 vaccine and testing clinic. The free event offered more than 1,000 first and second doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to people over the age of 16. People could schedule appointments or walkup. 

"We’re helping people get vaccinated," said Latosha Burch, one of the event coordinators. "We want to help people get vaccinated so we can have that herd immunity.”

Hampton University offered COVID-19 PCR tests through its mobile health unit. Members of the school's Cancer Research Center and Proton Therapy Institute assisted in the efforts. 

Dr. Luisel Ricks-Santi, director of the Cancer Research Center, emphasized that vaccinated people can still spread the COVID-19 virus. 

“You can still be infected but not show any symptoms because your body already knows how to fight the virus after vaccination," she said. 

Credit: Eugene Daniel
People wait inside St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church during COVID-19 vaccine and testing clinic Saturday.

Hampton's mobile testing unit has been key in getting COVID-19 resources into underserved communities, especially as the state pushes for equity in vaccine distribution. 

“For us to have a mobile unit and go to them and bring it directly to their door is awesome,” said clinical research nurse, Shakina Meredith. 

With the emergence of COVID-19 variants, Ricks-Santi says it is important to continue testing, and adds the current vaccines may not be the "end all, be all." Pfizer executives have hinted a third booster shot will likely be necessary one year after a person is fully vaccinated. 

Smith received his first two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at St. Mark. He just wants to help get his community back on track.

"For folks to come in and get this vaccine done, eventually I feel it’s going to go back to being normal again," he said.