VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The Virginia Beach Department of Public Health is working alongside multiple city agencies to operate a COVID-19 mass vaccination site at the Convention Center.
They started their first vaccination clinic there this week, administering 750 doses Tuesday and 750 on Thursday. The Department is vaccinating more than 7,000 Phase 1A healthcare workers.
Emergency Coordinator Bob Engle says they build capacity as they go and will hit the 5,000-mark next week.
“You can’t just flip a switch, it doesn’t happen that way,” Engle said. “You have to build people getting familiar with that process, learning the systems that we have.”
Phase 1B is a bigger undertaking, including essential workers and now people age 65 and up.
“125,000 people to vaccinate,” Engle said. “Not all those people will want the vaccination, but I imagine a large portion of them will.”
The process is smooth.
“When we do shift to the next tier, we are working on an online portal for a pre-registry,” Engle said.
People check-in and are sent to a vaccination station with volunteers like Nicholas Ilchyshyn.
“I tell ya, it’s a piece of cake,” Ilchyshyn said.
The retired periodontist is assisting a medical vaccinator who gives the dose.
“I’ve had a successful career and I think it’s important to give back to the community,” Ilchyshyn said.
After people get their shot, they sit in the monitoring room. They wait 15 minutes, or 30 minutes if they have severe allergies.
“I usually get really nervous with shots, but it was like no pain,” said Briana Bain, a physical therapist who received the vaccine.
Health Department staff work alongside Medical Reserve Corp volunteers and VB EMS.
“The uniform may be different, but the vaccinator that is providing the vaccine to the recipient, they all have the same training,” said VB EMS Chief John Bianco.
Chief Bianco calls it a team effort.
“Please be patient with us,” Chief Bianco said. “But please know that we all want every one of our citizens to receive the vaccine and we will get it to every one of them.”
Two weeks from now, their goal is to vaccinate 4,000 people a day.
Eventually, Engle said the department is planning to conduct smaller vaccination clinics at churches and other sites in the city to reach disadvantaged and underserved communities.