Delegate Roslyn Tyler, who represents the 75th District in the Virginia General Assembly, hosted a virtual town hall meeting on March 24, 2021 to provide information about the process in place to administer COVID-19 vaccinations. Invited guests were Dr. Danny Avula, Virginia Vaccine Coordinator, and Dr. Janice Underwood, Virginia’s Chief Diversity, Equality & Inclusion Officer. Directors from the Crater Health District, Western Tidewater Health District, Piedmont Health District and Southside Health District were also invited to participate.

Tyler said that she represents one of the largest districts including Sussex, Southampton, Brunswick, Greensville, part of Lunenburg, City of Emporia and Franklin. She said there has been state funding and federal funding calling attention to the CARES Act and efforts to provide Personal Protection Equipment and setting up vaccination clinics.

Tyler said some people have declined getting the vaccine, some feel they are serving as guinea pigs and there are other false ideas being circulated. She felt having a panel of experts in place might help to get the proper information to citizens.

Dr. Alton Hart, Jr., Director of the Crater Health District, said a second clinic was held in Surry and commended help provided by Horizon Health System for assistance. He also mentioned Walmart, Emporia Medical Associates, Jones Pharmacy, CVS as partners. Dr. Hart said COVID-19 tests are being conducted as well.

Dr. Avula commended the front line workers for their hard work and dedication in battling COVID-19. He said they have been leading the charge administering the vaccine. Dr. Avula said they are on track administering the vaccine to those in the 1b category and those who are 65 years of age or older and those with underlying health conditions. He said those in the African American community and Latino community have been greatly impacted by COVID-19.

Dr. Avula said the state is working on ways to make registering easier and establishing vaccination clinics that are more accessible. He also said there should be a collective conversation in those communities to address any hesitancy to get vaccinated. Dr. Avula said that people who are younger than 65 don’t seem to be as susceptible to the virus but can be exposed to the virus and take the virus home to an elderly person or someone with underlying health conditions. He urged community leaders to help get the message out to get vaccinated.

Dr. Scott Stillman, Southside Health District, did not participate in the virtual town hall meeting.

Dr. Underwood thanked Tyler for hosting the town hall meeting saying the Governor is committed to reaching all Virginians. She said when planning started state officials anticipated great hesitancy to get involved but have found the opposite, excitement and offers to help. She said the Governor understands there could be inequality in how the vaccines are being administered but is taking steps to address institutional racism.

Dr. Underwood said dealing with COVID-19 is helping Virginia be better prepared for the next public health crisis. She said the Virginia Department of Emergency Management is working proactively to deal with the crisis like it does when a hurricane is forecast. Dr. Underwood said the goal is to get people what they need for the good of all people in Virginia. She encouraged people to remain engaged in public service and not come out only when it is time to vote.

Cyliene Montgomery spoke on behalf of the disabled community and said she feels the state has not addressed including the disabled as being among the people who qualified for the vaccination. Dr. Underwood agreed that the disabled should be included and said the governor has put a task force in place to promote inclusiveness. Dr. Avula agreed that those who are disabled should be included and further stated that the CDC could not list everyone. Montgomery stressed the importance of having clinics open to people who are disabled.

A caller said that she has heard people express fear in getting the vaccine for religious reasons. Dr. Underwood said this is where faith leaders can play an important role in educating the public and dispelling myths. The caller also said that she has heard people express concern about the federal government having a “list” fearing the information might be used to discriminate. Dr. Underwood stressed the importance of getting the right message out to the public. She urged people to reach out to their neighbors and friends to make sure they are vaccinated, stressing that it is going to take a unified effort to be successful.

For more information visit www.vacinate.virginia.gov or call 877 VAX-in-VA (877) 829-4682.