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New COVID-19 vaccination clinic opens up in Newport News as health officials battle vaccine hesitancy

VDH officials are doubling down on their push to overcome vaccine hesitancy. Their new focus is encouraging young people to get vaccinated.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — It’s the latest effort to get people vaccinated in Newport News.

On Tuesday, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management opened a new state-managed vaccination clinic at the old Sherwood Shopping Center off of Warwick Blvd.

Jeff Johnson, Fire Chief of the Newport News Fire Department has coordinated clinics throughout the city. He said the new vaccination center was much needed.

“What we’re really looking for is one larger center here in the city that can serve anyone that wants to come with a wide variety of times,” said Johnson. 

Johnson said organizers have seen a decline in the number of people showing up to get vaccinated recently, but he’s confident the new clinic’s accessibility will draw more people to show up. 

Mark Perrin went there Wednesday and brought his roommates along. The Newport News man lives just down the street from the clinic. He had an appointment set up with his doctor, but it wasn’t until May.

“Everybody else got their shot, I’m like you know what? I’m gonna cancel my appointment with my doctor, just cause I can come here today,” said Perrin.

He registered and got his vaccine at the clinic the same day.

The new clinic is capable of administering 1,000 doses per day. Johnson said they’re looking to ramp it up to 3,000 doses a day if needed.

It comes as health officials double down on vaccine hesitancy.

Dr. Parham Jaberi, Chief Deputy Commissioner for public health preparedness with the Virginia Department of Health said this week, VDH leaders began having conversations with school superintendents across the Commonwealth. The goal is to get them on board and have them assist in encouraging parents to vaccinate their children.

RELATED: Newport News opens new community vaccination center to replace CNU site

Currently, anyone 16 and older are eligible to get a vaccine.

“We’ll be focusing on the high school students, faith-based communities to help us with the vaccinations,” said Jaberi.

“In the summer, what’s to come is we’re waiting for the approval of the vaccine to go all the way down to 12 years of age, so we’ll have to re-shift our focus to middle school and high school students.”

Jaberi said VDH isn’t leaning toward making a vaccine mandatory, they simply want schools and other community leaders to play a role in encouraging people to get the shot. Jaberi said vaccinating people ahead of graduations and summer travel is critical.

The community clinic off of Warwick Blvd. is open six days a week, from Monday through Saturday between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. City leaders are offering to pay for people’s round-trip bus passes to their appointments. You can obtain free bus passes through the city’s website, and the passes will get mailed to you.

Johnson said the clinic is set to last 45 days, but organizers will keep it going longer if the demand is there. You can register for an appointment at vaccinate.virginia.gov.

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