Amid concern over equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank has a targeted window of opportunity to get Black and Hispanic residents 65 years old and older a chance to be immunized.
CVS pharmacies in Virginia started offering vaccines to those 65 years old and older a little over a week ago, and even dogged attempts to secure an appointment since then are often met with screens saying that the pharmacies are booked, as the limited opportunities are snatched up as soon as they’re posted.
The pharmacy chain partnered with Feeding America, a charity and national network of food banks that BRAFB is part of, to set aside vaccine doses for underserved populations, specifically Black and Latino communities. The food banks were given special phone numbers specific to their service area that they could pass along to eligible vaccine recipients they serve who fit those criteria.
The phone numbers are up from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. today to accept those appointments, which would be set for early next week. Those in Central Virginia who are accessing food assistance services and are Black or Latino should call (855)-287-3456 before 11 p.m.
Data from the Virginia Department of Health indicate some racial disparities among those who’ve received a vaccine and reported their race: 12.1% of vaccine recipients are Black, while the state’s Black population is around 19.9%; and 5.7% of vaccine recipients are Latino, while the state’s Hispanic and Latino population is about 9.8%. White people make up 61.2% of Virginia’s population and 71.7% of those who’ve been vaccinated.
More than a third of people who’ve received a vaccine haven’t disclosed their race.
BRAFB sent the registration information out to its partner agencies in and around Lynchburg, according to Kristi West, local partner services coordinator for the food bank. She said this is the first vaccination opportunity she’s seen that’s been focused on the food bank’s clients.
Among a huge pool of people eligible for vaccines during Phase 1b and a limited supply of doses allocated to the Lynchburg area, many residents have been eager for updates on who’s offering vaccines and when.
On Thursday, Dr. Kerry Gateley, director of the Central Virginia Health District, will be part of a virtual COVID-19 vaccine information session through AARP.
Both members of AARP and non-members can register to attend the event, scheduled to start at 2:30 p.m., by visiting http://aarp.cvent.com/LynchburgVaccine022521. Those who’ve registered will receive a Zoom link to their email a day in advance.