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Sentara Medical Group begins vaccinating people 75 and older

A spokesperson said getting the vaccine to all SMG patients could take a while due to a limited supply.

NORFOLK, Va. — More older adults in Hampton Roads can get the COVID-19 vaccine now. Sentara Medical Group launched 13 sites across the Commonwealth on Wednesday to start getting shots to their patients 75 and older.

But, getting an appointment could take awhile.  

“We have five vaccination sites in Hampton Roads tonight,” said Sentara Healthcare Senior Communications Advisor Dale Gauding.”We have 13 around the Commonwealth of Virginia and they are literally booked up.”  

Gauding said there’s a limited number of vaccines. 

“We have several thousand doses of the vaccine available, and we have 96,000 patients who meet that criteria,” Gauding said. 

While the supply isn’t yet meeting the vaccination demand for health districts and hospitals across the Commonwealth, the state is stocked up on Medical Reserve Corps Volunteers. 

Some are even lending a hand to Sentara.

“We deployed some volunteers to help Sentara health system with some of their vaccinations,” said Medical Reserve Corps State Coordinator Jennifer Freeland. 

Freeland said thousands of Virginians stepped up to knock out this pandemic.

“Right now we are at 23,000 volunteers, and had you asked me that a year ago, I would say there is no way,” Freeland said. 

In the last 45 days, the Corps has approved more than 6,000 applications. Volunteers do various jobs, with about 1,050 qualified to vaccinate. Freeland said volunteers also get their own shot when it’s available.  

“It’s going to be months of us doing vaccination clinics,” Freeland said.

She said they aren’t pushing for volunteers but will never turn away an application.  

“I think we are all just going to have to take turns,” Freeland said. “I think if we don’t take turns, we are all going to burn out. One person can only put so many shots in people's arms.”  

Freeland said the VAMRC will deploy more people to help as needed. For now, Gauding with Sentara asks for the community’s patience.  

“It is a limited vaccine, and it is a huge number of people,” Gauding said. “It’s going to take a while before we can serve everybody who wants to get a vaccine.”  

Sentara will invite patients to sign up for their vaccine through its online system. 

The Medical Reserve Corps isn’t the only way Virginians can help fight the pandemic. 

The Virginia Department of Health is now recruiting community ambassadors. People can sign up to share COVID-19 updates and information from health experts to their followers on social media. 

The hope is that this will help cut out any misinformation circulating on the web.  

“One of the things that we have seen during COVID is that people want to share information,” said VDH Public Information Officer Brookie Crawford. “So, in the absence of having quality information, they are sharing whatever they can find. This is a way to give them information they can share from a reliable source.”  

Anyone interested in becoming a community ambassador can sign up here