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'Operation Vaccinate the Peninsula' aims to unify command and speed up vaccination efforts

Instead of working just side-by-side, several key healthcare providers on the Peninsula are banding together to maximize vaccination resources.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — More essential workers now have a chance to get their shot on the Eastern Shore.

“Housing and construction, restaurant workers,” said Eastern Shore Health District COO Jon Richardson, “Folks keeping our power and internet going.”

That’s just naming a few. Richardson said Eastern Shore Health District officials powered through Phase 1a and 1b, but also have a smaller population to reach.

“Accomack and Northampton, only 44,000 people,” Richardson said.

The district isn’t working alone. From the start, they have collaborated with Eastern Shore Rural Health System and Riverside Medical Group to get the job done.

“I would expect they will move through that Phase 1c group fairly quickly,” said Riverside Vice President Cindy Williams.

Riverside is now part of an even larger team effort called "Operation Vaccinate the Peninsula."

“As we are getting higher quantities of vaccine, it became evident that it would make sense for all of us to come together in order to maximize our resources,” Williams said.

Instead of working just side-by-side, several key healthcare providers on the Peninsula will operate under a unified command to vaccinate:

  • Peninsula and Hampton Health Districts
  • Six localities (Newport News, Hampton, James City County, Poquoson, Williamsburg, York County)
  • Health Systems: Bon Secours, Riverside, Sentara

Williams said they’ll tackle more mass vaccination clinics.

“Instead of possibly having a number of smaller events on the same day, it makes more sense to pull the resources and have perhaps one large event on the same day,” Williams said.

They also want to bring better communication on vaccine efforts to the community.

“We want to make sure the messaging is clear, concise and the same from all mouths,” said Peninsula and Hampton Population Health Manager Irene Ferrainolo.

Ferrainolo believes the partnership will help them reach 1c a lot quicker.

“We are hoping that by the time we get to May we will be opening up to 1c... but fingers crossed, there is no promise on that yet,” Ferrainolo said.

Essential workers didn’t sit out the pandemic.

“Ironwork is already inherently dangerous without having to worry about a pandemic,” said Ironworkers Local Union 79 Business Manager Thomas Bell.

Iron Workers Local Union 79 covers 150 workers in Hampton Roads who are more than ready for their shot.

“They have had the valid concern of having to go to work, work in close proximity with others and worry about what they are taking home to their families,” Bell said. “So yes, they are definitely excited about getting the vaccine.”

Eastern Shore Health Officials couldn’t give a timeline for their 1c vaccinations but predict they will move on to the general population well before May. Officials expect to vaccinate around 800 to 1,000 people in 1c.