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Elation, relief as people get second round vaccine doses

SoVaNow.com / April 05, 2021
Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital (SHRH) served up a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to hundreds of local residents who came in for their follow-up shots Saturday at Halifax County High School. The mass vaccine clinic came on the heels of an initial round of inoculations at HCHS on March 13.

At that time, the hospital dispensed 1,170 vaccine doses, and the turnout was strong for Round 2 on Saturday, although Sentara did not provide specific numbers.

With the second dose, recipients will wait two weeks before they enjoy near-total immunity to COVID-19, the disease that has claimed an estimated 555,000 lives in the U.S. since the coronavirus pandemic arrived in the country around the start of last year.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are administered in two shots, and it takes two weeks after the second dose to achieve full immunity. (Research has shown the Pfizer vaccine has a 95 percent effective rate stopping the disease, and other research has shown that with both of the two-dose vaccines, even partial inoculation provides significant protection and lessens the severity of COVID-19 for those who do contract the virus). A third approved vaccine, by Johnson & Johnson, is given in a single dose and takes seven days to convey full immunity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend one vaccine over another — they are equally safe, effective, and reduce risk for severe illness, research shows.

People who came in for their shots Saturday offered a variety of reasons for doing so, and some said their decision to get vaccinated came only after some early hesitation.

“I feel better protected for myself and others,” said Sandora Faulkner.

Faulkner is an employee at the high school. Like many people, she said she was skeptical at first about receiving the vaccine because it is new.

“I kept putting it off and prayed on it for before making my decision to take the vaccine,” said Faulkner.

Crystal Brown said she decided to get her shots for a simple reason: “I’m excited for my second dose, and hope to get back to a normal life.”

To those who are unsure about safety of the vaccine, Brown recommended reading up on the subject: “Do your research, pray about it, and do it,” said Brown.

Both Brown and Faulkner said they will continue to wear face masks after being fully vaccinated and expressed the hope that others will do the same. Because people can contract the virus but show no symptoms, it is possible that asymptomatic carriers could spread COVID-19 even after being vaccinated. Until the virus is stamped out, the CDC urges precautions like wearing masks, staying six feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated public spaces.

Medical experts say the coronavirus threat will end when the world’s population achieves herd immunity — through vaccination, along with people who’ve gotten sick from COVID-19 and had their immune systems kicked into high gear. Around 131 million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 around the world, causing nearly 2.9 million global deaths.

Health officials have stressed the urgency of achieving herd immunity, explaining that as long as the coronavirus is allowed to spread, it could mutate into new variants that may be able to overwhelm the vaccines.

Dr. James Priest, longtime local dentist and Oral and Maxillofacial surgeon, helped to dispense vaccines at the HCHS clinic this weekend. Priest brought up the importance of herd immunity, which protects people who are unable to get vaccinated for medical or other reasons. By limiting the pool of people who can catch the virus and foster its spread, vaccination protects everyone.

“We’ve got to vaccinate 75 percent of the population before we get past this,” said Priest of how the pandemic will end.

Sentara Halifax Regional, in partnership with the health department, has conducted two rounds of mass vaccinations at HCHS, with Saturday’s clinic finishing out inoculations for the first group of recipients. A second-round clinic will be held on April 17 for people who got their first shot of the Moderna vaccine March 27 at HCHS.

“We have successfully completed the second dose clinic with a high return rate [Saturday] and look forward to the April 17 second dose clinic,” said SHRH director of marketing Joni Henderson.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, nearly one-third of Halifax County residents have received at least one vaccine dose — 10,016 people through Sunday. There have been 15,008 doses given all told, with 5,242 Halifax residents now fully vaccinated. The numbers do not include totals from the Saturday clinic at HCHS, nor do they fully capture the number of residents who may have traveled across the state line into North Carolina to get their shots.

Broken down by age group, VDH reports that nearly 57.7 percent of county residents ages 70 to 79 have received at least one vaccine dose — 2,202 residents in all. The next highest vaccination rate of 55.1 percent is for the 80 and over age group, which translates to another 1,160 county residents. A reported 2,593 residents between the ages of 60 and 69 have gotten at least one shot, a vaccination rate of 50.5 percent.

In the 50-59 age group, 36.4 percent of county residents, 1,688 people in all, have gotten at least one shot, and in the 40-49 age group, 26.2 percent have gotten vaccinated, or 954 people.

The higher vaccination rates for the older demographic groups reflect the prioritized vaccine campaign for people ages 65 and up. The health department is hoping to reach a larger share of younger residents as availability of vaccines becomes more widespread.

On April 18, Virginia will move into Phase 2 for administering the COVID-19 vaccine. This means everyone, 16 and older, who lives or works in Virginia will be eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine at that time. Several Southside Virginia counties are already in Phase 2 including Halifax, Pittsylvania, Mecklenburg, and Brunswick. Charlotte County is currently still listed as Phase 1b.

As of today, April 5, vaccine appointments will be accepted for all residents 16 or older living in the Southside and Danville-Pittsylvania health districts, which span the area from Pittsylvania to Brunswick counties (see related story).

For more information on the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine and to schedule and appointment in Virginia visit https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/covid-19-vaccine/phase-by-health-district/

The virus is blamed for 72 hospitalizations and 73 deaths in Halifax County, which has seen 2,693 cases of COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. There have been 20 deaths and 1,269 cases in Brunswick County, and 62 deaths and 2,166 cases in Mecklenburg County.

The State of Virginia has surpassed 10,000 deaths and 625,000 cases since the pandemic began.



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