Free back to school clinics in Richmond, Henrico end early due to high demand

Free back to school clinics in Richmond, Henrico end early due to high demand
Officials say the clinics quickly reached capacity and can no longer provided school vaccinations and physicals.

HENRICO/RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Henrico Health Department ended a back-to-school clinic three hours early Wednesday due to the large turnout.

Officials said the clinic quickly reached capacity by 11 a.m. and could no longer provide school vaccinations and physicals.

“Residents can call the Henrico East and West clinics for individual appointment availability and a list of other providers,” officials said.

The event was offered to students set to attend Kindergarten through 12th grade, who are uninsured or underinsured. The services were offered at no cost on a first-come, first-served basis.

Kara Holmes, a Nurse Manager with the County Health Department, said they capped the number of students Wednesday at roughly 100.

"There were too many people for the doctors to take care of,” said Brianna Brown.

Brown is supposed to start Kindergarten next week, but when she and her brother walked up to get her free physical and shots, they realized it wasn't going to happen.

“We pulled up around 11:30 and they told us they weren’t doing it anymore,” said O’Shawn Hurtt, Brianna’s older brother. “We had an appointment for 12 and they said even people with appointments.”

Staff posted signs to the front doors of the health department shortly after O’Shawn and Brianna arrived.

The sign reads in part:

“We apologize for the inconvenience but our Back to School immunizations and physicals clinic is closed due to the high turnout form the community.”

“It has been very busy,” Holmes said. “People were starting to line up apparently at 4 a.m. So, the need is desperately great.”

Holmes said they anticipated a good turnout, but nothing like what they saw.

“People have been very grateful for it,” Holmes said. “Even the long waits in line, I would go and talk to them, they were just so thankful that we offered this. They knew that their kids weren’t going to be held out of school.”

This is also the first time the health department has offered physicals and immunizations at the same time before the start of the school year.

“With the physicals, there’s a vision screening, hearing screening, a TB screening,” Holmes said. “So, to be able to get everyone through the different pieces [it takes time], and then we’re also limited on space here, so that’s why we had to cap it at a certain number.”

“A little bit of time wasted, and she needs it done before school,” Hurtt said.

While Hurtt and his sister will have to look elsewhere for these services, they hope the clinic next year will be better.

“Everybody trying to do it at one time... this is what happens,” he said.

Holmes said the department will review the event from this year and look at ways to improve for future clinics.

“All things are on the table to evaluate,” she said. “The immunizations can be a little tricky because they have to be temperature controlled. We will definitely look at all aspects next year. We also have our east clinic too, so we may have to look at a couple of different days."

Anyone with information on community resources for back to school physicals and immunizations can click here.

The Richmond City Health District ended a vaccine and physicals clinic at 1 p.m. Friday after high demand. Health officials said that clinic was capped at roughly 300 students.

“There was an exceptionally long line of people at the door hours before the 8 a.m. start time, and the steady stream of residents looking to take advantage of free school immunizations and physicals depleted the vaccine supply,” the Virginia Department of Health said in a news release.

The clinic was originally scheduled to go until 2:30 p.m.

“School entry immunizations are still available at the Richmond City Health District by appointment by calling 804-482-5500,” the release said.

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