RICHMOND, Va. -- Up until a few weeks ago, the demand for COVID-19 vaccines had begun slipping, but Dr. Shantelle Brown, who owns and operates the Church Hill pharmacy, said the highly contagious delta variant has flipped that script.
“They were still kind of trickling in. Now, I think we’ve picked up like 50% more than what we were doing this time last month,” said Dr. Brown.
The push to get more people vaccinated against coronavirus comes as the delta variant is now the dominant strain of COVID-19 in Virginia. Large groups of children who cannot get the vaccine yet will return to school buildings soon and health data analysts warn another large surge of cases is possible this fall.
Dr. Brown said the reasons she gets for why people waited until now to the vaccinated are wide-ranging. On Monday morning, an example of one of the biggest ones walked into the pharmacy to get her shot.
Mrs. Williams, who asked to not use her first name, said she got a call from her son just hours before with the news he had tested positive for COVID-19.
“He said, ‘Mom, you need to go right now,’” Mrs. Williams said, adding her son is feeling okay. “He’s strong, eats healthy and everything. He’s strong.”
Still, the family scare meant she got her first Moderna shot and her son plans to get vaccinated once his 10-day quarantine ends. They plan to encourage other family members to do the same as soon as possible.
“He wasn’t hesitant, he’s a man that’s just out there working. He just had so many jobs,” Mrs. Williams said. “Everybody that’s out there has got to stop and take the time and get your vaccination right away. You got to do it, it’s important.”
A new survey of Virginians by VCU’s Wilder School found that hesitancy among the unvaccinated is on the rise lately. Only 27% of unvaccinated Virginians surveyed in July said they are likely to get the vaccine at some point, comported to 56% in April and 30% in May.
Joanna Cirillo, the communicable disease nurse supervisor for the Richmond-Henrico Health District, said she approaches conversations without judgment when asking people why they waited until recently to get their COVID-19 vaccine.
“It’s really just a question of time and meeting people when they’re ready,” Cirillo said. “A large chunk are it’s needed for travel; it’s needed for me to go to my university, but a large chunk are just like, it was time. I talked to enough of my friends and family.”
For Dr. Brown at Hope Pharmacy, the daily work of vaccinating adults is a constant reminder that her young children cannot get the vaccine yet. It is also a major influence on how she approaches talks with those who come into the pharmacy asking questions about vaccination.
“So, when you have a certain subset of the population who can’t get vaccinated, I think we could have been a little more cautious,” Dr. Brown said. “It’s not about us. It’s about our children, our mothers, and everyone else. If we take that perspective, I think a lot more people would go ahead and get vaccinated.”
The VDH advises Virginians to:
- wear a mask in indoor settings even if you are vaccinated,
- get fully vaccinated,
- stay at least six feet from others outside of your household,
- avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces,
- wash your hands often
- stay home if you are infected with COVID-19, and
- stay separate from others and get tested if you have had close contact with someone with COVID-19.
The best way to stop variant strains from developing in the first place is to stop the spread of COVID-19. Please see the Variants of Concern (VOC) dashboard for more information about all variants of concern identified in Virginia.
Visit vaccinate.virginia.gov to find resources on getting a COVID-19 vaccine.