Community comes together to get shots in arms

In the northwest corner of the commonwealth, the COVID-19 vaccination effort is working. In the 240,000-person community of Winchester, Valley Health medical system partners with the Lord Fairfax Health District to get shots in arms as fast as they receive them. So far, 38,000 have been inoculated.

 

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Thanks to a huge number of volunteers and cooperation between Shenandoah University, Valley Health medical system and the health district, about about 500 to 600 people a day are being vaccinated, said Dr. Jeff Feit, Valley Health vice president of population health and chief medical officer of Valley Physician Enterprise Medical Group.

“We had a strong partnership with the health district before the pandemic. Then, this spring we worked with the health district in response to COVID. As the district would become aware of an outbreak, we would show up wherever we were needed with an outbreak response team.”

It comes down to good communication, Feit said. He and Dr. Colin Greene, Lord Fairfax Health District director, have been in close communication throughout the emergency.

“Geographically, the health district and our health system overlap almost perfectly. We know each other, we work together. We realized we were going to need a large space to open a mass vaccination clinic so the university stepped up to offer their gymnasium.”

The university provides the vaccine clinic space, parking and even golf cart rides for senior citizens to get to the gym. Pharmacists are volunteering their time to help administer shots, as well.

“There is something magical about the size of our community. We are perfectly sized for this type of effort. If you are in a city with a million people, there are a lot of players competing. But here, it’s just us.

It’s working because the entire community has come together, Feit said.

“Communities solve community problems. You have to define your community and look at how this community has solved its problem. It’s not just about the health system. It’s the health department and the university. Even the apple growers have brought apples in for the volunteers. I am hopeful that what we learn from this is that everyone has to be involved to solve our problems.”