DANVILLE, Va. — In March, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that Danville was chosen as one of three locations in the state to hold a state-run COVID-19 vaccination clinic. A FEMA-funded, Virginia Department of Emergency Management-run clinic opened at the former JCPenney location in Danville on March 15, with the promise of providing 3,000 shots per day for Danville and the surrounding areas.
Danville was originally chosen to house the state-run clinic due to its socio-vulnerability, the impact COVID-19 has had and the need to vaccinate vulnerable populations. However, less than one month later, the state is only providing around 750 shots per day, according to Pittsylvania Danville Health District Director Dr. Scott Spillmann.
Spillmann said the state “overestimated” how many vaccines they would give in a day, as well as the willingness of people to travel from other areas to receive their shot. The clinic has been open to the Pittsylvania-Danville district, as well as the Southside and West Piedmont Districts, which includes Brunswick, Halifax, Mecklenburg, Henry, Franklin and Patrick Counties and the City of Martinsville.
“The site can handle 6,000 per day, so they said they would do 3,000 per day without really understanding what the travel hesitancy would be,” Spillmann said.
After realizing that they were not serving as many people as originally projected, Spillmann said the state wanted to pull out of Danville all together, but he suggested a model that would allow them to serve more people where they were.
The clinic at JCPenney remains open six days per week giving 250 shots per day, but now, they are also serving satellite sites several days per week, taking 250 doses with them. So far, they have given doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Goodyear Boulevard and at the Airside industrial Park.
Spillman said they are also going to set up at the Gretna Community Vaccination Clinic and serve there.
“We basically defined the locations, and they’re going to do 250 at a time,” Spillmann said. “It’s a hub and spoke model. The hub is the JCPenney site.”
Even though the district is “picking away” at getting the community vaccinated through large-scale clinics, pharmacies and more, Spillmann said he will continue to advocate for Pittsylvania-Danville and the Southside Districts at the state level, as he doesn’t want anyone to forget about them and the vaccination efforts still to take place.
Despite the challenges of the state-run clinic, Spillmann called the clinic “a shot in the arm” that boosted the work the vaccine coalition was already doing.
According to the Virginia Department of Health’s vaccine demographics, 30,446 people in the Pittsylvania/Danville region have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with just more than half reported of that as fully vaccinated.