RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH, KENYA HUNTER
Tom Leonard, 65, didn’t know that his second shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine would be the 100,000th shot administered at the Richmond Raceway. He just knew that he wanted things to get back to normal at the farmers market he owns in Short Pump, and he also lost some friends to COVID-19, too.
“We’re pretty grateful that none of our team was real sick, and we were able to get through this,” Leonard said to a pool of reporters, holding a certificate signaling his being the 100,000th shot. “We’re pretty happy there’s a light at the end of the tunnel right now.”
The Richmond and Henrico Health Districts delivered relief across the area as they administered the 100,000th shot in the morning, and offered vaccines to those with disabilities later in the afternoon. The 100,000th dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the raceway could signal a turning point for a return to “normal,” after more than a year of the pandemic. The 100,000th dose, Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger said, is a milestone for the Richmond Raceway vaccination effort.
“We have seen tremendous success at all levels. We see partnerships right here, we have the county folks, we’ve got the national guard, the Virginia medical reserve, everybody coming through to really be a part of this effort to make sure that we can vaccinate Virginians across the Commonwealth,” she said. “The idea that one location has now … vaccinated 100,000 people is pretty extraordinary and I think it’s the continued path toward a new normal as we continue to fight this virus.”
Antwan Agee, who administered the shot to Leonard, said he was happy to be part of the vaccination effort.
“I always like to help people [and] don’t like to see people suffer,” Agee said. “That’s why I became a nurse. It’s just something that came easy to me.”
Since the first case of COVID-19 in Virginia, 10,279 people in the state have died from the disease. While it could be a turning point, the Centers for Disease Control still asks fully vaccinated people to avoid medium- and large-sized gatherings.
Melody Seabron, who has been living with cancer for 15 years, got a Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts’ first ever drive-thru vaccination event. Despite now being fully vaccinated with the one-dose vaccine, she said she still plans to live cautiously.
“It is a little breath of fresh air,” Seabron said about receiving the shot. “I feel a little relieved now that I got this shot … I think we should still be a little cautious.”
The drive-thru event, which took place at the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, was specifically meant for those with disabilities and their caregivers. The small-scale event that was open to 130 people was meant to increase accessibility for those with disabilities. Largely, people with disabilities may have issues with transportation or mobility, and might find it difficult to navigate large scale vaccination sites like the Richmond Raceway, which is 36,000 square feet.
“We wanted to make it easy for this group, particularly, to get vaccinated,” said Joanna Cirillo, the public health nurse supervisor for the Richmond Health District. “I feel like this group might so far, feel a little bit left behind, or that the vaccine events haven’t been accessible for them … They’ve just been really excited.”
So far, the Saturday drive-thru vaccination event is the only one the health districts have planned, Cirillo said. It was made possible by partnering with community organizations such as SOAR365 and Resources for Independent Living.
Sophia Booker, 31, said she was anxious to get the vaccine. In fact, those who helped administer it stayed with her for about an hour while she prepared herself to take the shot. She cried before nurses finally convinced her it would be OK.
“I’m for vaccines, but this one is a little new,” she said of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. “Everyone was like, ‘just do it.’ I was worried about long-term data, but they wouldn’t have put it out here if it wasn’t safe.”
“We let her lead the process. We just followed her lead,” said Rhonda Toms, who administered vaccines.