Virginia’s vaccine coordinator addresses rural hesitancy, when teens can get a shot

Virginia’s vaccine coordinator addresses rural hesitancy, when teens can get a shot
A vaccine being administered to a patient. (Source: NBC)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Recent surveys have shown rural Americans are more hesitant about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Danny Avula, who leads Virginia’s vaccination effort, says that’s something the Virginia Department of Health is working to address.

On a conference call with reporters, Avula says sooner or later, the approach to vaccinations will change. It will become less about just making the shot available and more about addressing skepticism.

“There will also need to be this accompanying outreach, the work of using trusted individuals in communities - elected officials, faith leaders, people to understand and vouch for the vaccine,” Avula said.

In addition to those conversations, VDH has plans to send more vaccine to private practices in early summer - a move Avula thinks can help.

“For those patients who are on the fence, having the ability to talk to the provider they have a relationship with will hopefully help us get to that last 10 to 15 percent,” he said.

The shift of shots from larger clinics to private practices is expected to help another group: kids. Avula says early data from Pfizer is encouraging because it shows the shot’s efficacy and safety for those 12-16 years old.

“Everything that I’ve seen and heard is that we’re still looking at the September timeframe for FDA approval,” he said.

Once the shot is approved for that age group, a more traditional vaccine rollout is anticipated.

“Pediatricians will be the primary outlet for most kids, and then pharmacies will also be a big option.”

Avula also shared details of Virginia’s new distribution plan that will deliver vaccine to the areas based on how many unvaccinated 16-64-year-olds still need a shot.

“[We’ll] use that proportion to basically divvy up the pie of vaccine coming in,” he said. “It’s a little bit of a hybrid of a per capita and a demand-based allocation. We’ll just actively manage it every week so that when we see demand dropping off in certain communities, we will push that allocation to the places seeing more demand.”

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