University of Virginia students and Charlottesville residents flocked to Danville this week to receive COVID-19 vaccines at a new mass vaccination center — and state officials now say that must stop.
Earlier this week, the new Community Vaccination Center had thousands of extra doses and the staff there was giving them out to anyone who showed up.
News of the extra doses reached Charlottesville — and UVA Grounds — early this week. By Wednesday, hundreds of students and community members had made the two and a half hour drive to Danville.
“On the way out the person literally told me, ‘Spread the word, not the virus,’” said Nick Anderson, a UVA student who started a GroupMe chat to tell other students about the walk-in clinic. “He was like, ‘This is great, you guys are talking about it and getting people to come down.’ He was really appreciative of it and thought we were doing a good thing.”
But by Wednesday evening the message had changed.
The Virginia Department of Emergency Management and the Virginia Department of Health, which jointly run the center, put out a statement informing people that anyone who arrived without an appointment would be turned away.
“We allocated 3,000 doses there per day,” said Lauren Opett, a spokeswoman for VDEM. “That amount of doses outpaced the demand in Danville. So, we’re doing some reallocating of doses to other places in Virginia. There are no extra doses in Danville anymore.”
Even with the slough of unscheduled walkins from around the state, the clinic as of Wednesday had distributed just 12,000 doses — roughly half their goal.
The outpaced demand was basically a miscalculation, Opett said. The state had determined that Danville’s population was large enough to use 3,000 doses a day.
“But even our best plans don’t tell you how many residents in an area are going to end up taking advantage of the vaccine,” she said.
The Danville clinic was the state’s first Community Vaccination Center. It was opened March 15 using a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant.
The centers’ purpose is to facilitate “large scale” vaccination efforts.
The state selected the site based on things like the area’s population and the number of vulnerable people there who might otherwise struggle to get a vaccine, Opett said.
Since launching the Danville site, the state has opened three others in Portsmouth, Petersburg and Prince William. It plans to open more in the coming weeks.
The mass vaccination centers are separate from local health district’s vaccination efforts.
The local Blue Ridge Health District continues to vaccinate people in Phase 1A and 1B. The district hopes to have sent invitations to schedule appointments to everyone in those phases who has pre-registered with VDH by the end of the week.
Vaccine availability remains limited in the district, local officials say. For that reason, they will not provide second doses of the vaccine to anyone who received their first dose at the Danville clinic.