HAMPTON, Va. — The Hampton VA Medical Center (HVAMC) started a mass vaccination clinic for veterans Monday at the Hampton University Convocation Center.
Veterans Affairs leaders said the convocation center provides a larger space than what would be available at the medical center and makes vaccinations more easily accessible to veterans. It also allows the VA to schedule more appointments for those who are eligible. As of Monday, that covered veterans who are at least 65 years old with at-risk health conditions. HVAMC was contacting those people.
Some veterans received the Johnson & Johnson shot Monday, while most received first or second doses of the Moderna vaccine.
“I anticipate being here until late summer, so we should be able to get a lot of veterans through our system and vaccinated at this location," said Dr. Taquisa Simmons, HVAMC Executive Director.
Veteran Leonder Garris said it was comforting to get his first shot around other veterans after waiting for months.
“I’m extremely happy, I can be close to my grandkids, family and friends, and I’m going to feel a little more at east once I get the second shot," Garris said.
Simmons said the Johnson & Johnson shot provides more flexibility for veterans who many not have easy access to a second vaccination appointment.
“We are just so pleased to be able to open things up and as things progress we’ll be able to do more when we have more [supply]," Simmons said.
Hampton University leaders moved basketball practices and games from the Convocation Center so HVAMC could use it as a vaccination site moving forward.
Dr. Michelle Penn-Marshall, Hampton University Vice President for Research, said the decision supports a priority of boosting vaccinations, however possible.
“As a Historically Black College and University we are trusted in the communities of color, so that assists in minimizing hesitancy," she said. “We are going to work with [the VA] to ensure that as many veterans have the ability to get vaccinated can do so at this Convocation Center," Penn-Marshall said.
Vaccinations for veterans currently are by appointment only. HVAMC leaders said thousands of veterans have expressed interest and are waiting for an appointment.