ASHLAND, Va. -- An Ashland company is helping to get the COVID-19 vaccine to underserved communities by turning an RV into a mobile lab for Hampton University.
"It's exciting to be part of something that's important," said STX Inc. President Terry Looney. His company has built and renovated laboratories for the past 25 years.
Looney said while they were doing work at Hampton University a few months ago, the school's president asked if they could make a mobile lab.
"And I'm like, sure, you know, what do you got in mind," recalled Looney. He said they came up with a design that provided a space for teaching and collaboration, patient screening, and a complete laboratory.
"All of these surfaces are built for laboratory use," he said. They're lab tops, but this one also, with this pad, converts into a patient exam station."
The RV is also equipped with several types of freezers that are capable of story up to 500 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines as, for the immediate future, the university said it will use the vehicle as a mobile vaccination and testing clinic.
"This is the -80 degree freezer, which is required for maintaining the original vaccine," said Looney when providing a tour of the RV to CBS 6. "This is a -20 freezer, which is often used for controls and other some of the other vaccines. And this is the pharmaceutical refrigerator, which could be again used for controls patient samples or any number of things."
The university said it will use the RV to deliver vaccines to underserved communities. With much of the vaccination efforts so far focusing on mass events, Looney said having a mobile option helps those who might not have gotten it otherwise.
"This was really the impetus for the whole vehicle," he said. "People that are geographically isolated, people that are economically isolated, older people, minorities, people with physical handicaps, people that have a hard time getting to services, not just vaccine, but medical services in general."
The vehicle was delivered to the university this week and will start delivering the vaccine next week.
The university said it will be out about five times each week.