Health officials now target public housing communities

By Sunni Blevins - bio | email
Posted by Phil Riggan – email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Doctors offices and emergency rooms are reporting fewer swine flu cases. But health officials say now is not the time to underestimate the illness.

In fact, health departments are ramping up efforts to get more people vaccinated.

The Richmond Health Department has helped vaccinate more than 14,000 people in just the past two months, and says it won't stop now.

Other counties are offering more vaccine clinics too, and some are getting creative -- combining vaccines and shopping.

While health officials are pleased with the slowdown of swine flu cases -- efforts to fight the illness continue.

"What's going to happen later on this flu season -- I do not have that crystal ball," said Dr. Donald Stern, Richmond City Public Health Director.

Over the weekend, the Richmond Health District partnered with Bon Secours to host vaccine clinics in two public housing communities -- an effort that will continue this weekend and after the New Year.

Other health departments are offering clinics as well.

Starting Tuesday, Powhatan County will open a satellite clinic four days a week at the Old War Memorial building on Skaggs Road. Call 768-7499 for more info.

And on Saturday in Hanover, 600 doses of the vaccine will be available at a mass vaccination clinic at the Hanover Health Department in Ashland.  Call 365-4313 for an appointment.

The Piedmont health district -- which includes Amelia County -- has said it will take vaccines into shopping malls this holiday season. It's something that's worked well already in Northern Virginia.

As the details are being finalized, health officials say we might see more places in Central Virginia jumping on board.

"I think the idea of using shopping centers as a distribution point is a very clever idea, and I think it shows efforts that Piedmont is working aggressively to make sure that the vaccine is available to their residents as well as the rest of us are working to make sure that anyone who wants access to this vaccine has it," said Dr. Stern.

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