New Southside mass vaccination center serves more than South Richmonders

Posted at 8:37 PM, Mar 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-23 20:38:14-04

RICHMOND, Va., — More than 650 people received their initial dose of the COVID-19 vaccine within the first four hours at the city’s mass clinic on the Southside.

Celebration Church on Midlothian Turnpike hosted the first mass vaccination clinic held south of the James River on Tuesday afternoon.

More than 900 people were scheduled for an appointment, according to Richmond City Health District Public Health Nurse Joanna Cirillo.

Ninth-district Councilman Mike Jones called the new site a “big win for all Southside residents.”

“It’s huge. It’s going to make a big difference reaching a lot of our demographic and a lot of people we are struggling to reach,” he explained.

In early February, Councilpersons Ellen Robertson and Reva Trammell joined Jones for a press conference calling on state and local health leaders to focus vaccination efforts south of the river. Currently, there are two established vaccination clinics staged at the Richmond Raceway in Henrico’s East End and the Arthur Ashe Center located near the city’s Northside.

Jones had criticized those sites as far away and hard-to-reach for individuals who rely on the bus system for transportation.

The Southside site should improve access especially for Richmonders who cannot drive or don’t have access to a car.

Veronica Loney said Councilwoman Trammell helped her sign-up for an appointment on Tuesday.

“I was the only one in the household that didn’t get my shot. So, today was my first day getting my shot. I’m glad,” Loney said after receiving her first dose.

Loney lives a few streets away from Celebration Church. Her sister drove her to her appointment but was thankful that she could’ve walked to the event.

Clyde Cristman drove an hour away from King William County for his appointment on the Southside.

"Finally, it was my turn. I pre-registered two months ago with my health department and finally got the email that my turn was up,” he explained. “I have to come back on April 13 for number two. Hopefully, the lights at the end of the tunnel and we can get this pandemic behind us and life can get back to normal.”

Cirillo said RCHD initially set aside 250 slots specifically for Southside residents. Those appointments were set-up by community partners like pastors, non-profits, and city leaders.

Tuesday’s clinic did include essential workers who weren’t yet vaccinated and could live south of the James River. Others were able to sign up through the CDC's Vaccination Administration Management System (VAMS).

Cirillo said it would've been difficult to task community partners with filling nearly a 1,000 appointments. She stated that every week RCHD will ensure to designate more appointments exclusively for Southside residents.

The Southside clinic will be operated once a week with more appointments made available as the number of doses increase. No walk-ins are allowed.