RICHMOND, Va. -- Reaching herd immunity is the goal in Virginia's fight to beat COVID-19 and vaccine coordinators say that to do so, vaccines need to reach everyone, including those who struggle to access healthcare.
A COVID-19 clinic in partnership with the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts is part of RHHD's shift to smaller events that are more physically and culturally accessible than larger events.
"Really powerful messengers of COVID-19 information, and also information on how to access a vaccine are often with our community leaders who regularly work and partner with the communities they serve," Cat Long, a public information officer with RHHD, said.
While the clinic is open to the general public, Long said that the aim of this event is to give a safe space to members of the LGBTQ+ community.
"We think this is particularly important because we know that pre-pandemic research demonstrates that folks in the LGBTQ+ population are less likely to seek medical care," Long said.
James Millner with Diversity Richmond said that among the reasons for this hesitancy are historical challenges accessing healthcare and being treated equitably and compassionately.
"Particularly trans folks, trans women of color. So, we're hoping that by opening our doors today to our community, and to the entire Richmond community, frankly, that we will be able to help overcome some of those fears that people may have," Millner said.
Long said that a Kaiser Foundation study found that the LGBTQ+ community's willingness to get the vaccine was equal to those who are not members of the community, but the actual vaccination rates are unknown as Virginia doesn't collect data on gender or sexual orientation.
Long said that those are questions some may not feel comfortable answering and they want to make the process as safe and comfortable as possible.
"The downside of that is that sometimes we don't have all of the data and we don't fully understand where the disparities or the barriers exist," Long said.
Millner is encouraging anyone still wanting to get a vaccine to do so, adding that it gave him a feeling of freedom and liberation.
"It's a fantastic feeling. And I feel like I have done my part. Everything I can do to help in this pandemic which is what we all should be doing," Millner said.