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VDH will give more vaccine doses to minority communities; 'mobile clinics' part of expansion

Hampton University said it will use its new mobile vaccination clinic to provide COVID-19 vaccine to people in underserved areas of Hampton Roads.

HAMPTON, Va. — The Virginia Department of Health is changing how it will distribute COVID-19 vaccines. 

VDH will soon designate more doses for cities with minority communities showing high rates of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.

"Mobile vaccination clinics," a new initiative, support the health department's plans for vaccine prioritization. 

Hampton University, revealing a specially-built vaccination clinic on Thursday, said it would use its new RV to provide shots in underserved communities throughout Hampton Roads.

The big, blue, branded RV should be ready to roll out on March 8.

“To go into the low-income, underserved, African-American, Hispanic communities, the elderly communities, people that live in public housing, that’s the charge we were given when we started designing this mobile unit in August," said Michelle Penn-Marshall, Hampton University vice president for research and associate provost.

Hampton University's mobile vaccination clinic can hold 500 shots and will be used throughout the region.

“Many of the vaccinators actually look like the people in the community that they’re serving," Penn-Marshall said.

Mobile clinics reflect a new priority for the Virginia Department of Health.

Virginia vaccine coordinator, Dr. Danny Avula, said the Commonwealth was moving to a weighted model that would prioritize Black and Hispanic communities who have been disproportionately affected by the virus.

“When you have higher rates of hospitalization and death in the Black and Latino community, that will weigh the allocation to that particular locality," Avula said.

Hampton University leaders said they want to rebuild community trust in vaccinations through this mobile clinic.

“To me the real work begins, because now we have to coordinate, get out into the communities, remind people, 'You can trust us' and that 'This vaccine is good for you,'" Penn-Marshall said. "It’s not going to harm you, it’s going to extend your life and the lives of others that you come in contact with."

The RV was a half-million-dollar project, funded by donations to Hampton University and built by STX. 

Hampton University said it didn’t yet know how many vaccine doses it would receive, but it expected to get shipments from the health department as part of the new vaccine distribution priorities.