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EDITORIAL – Longwood can help speed vaccination process

Longwood University gave 650 people coronavirus vaccinations last week, providing the community with increased capacity to vaccinate more people faster, yet some county leaders remain shortsightedly focused on who was vaccinated rather than looking at the bigger picture.

Having Longwood University in Farmville can be our secret weapon to get us out of pandemic mode quickly. The university has the cold storage capability necessary to properly store the vaccine and a program of nursing students to administer the shots. With the permission and endorsement of the Virginia Department of Health, the university gave the vaccine to its faculty, staff and some front-line students in a trial run that focused on refining the process. The first clinic was designed to provide a model to include the community in future clinics.

This is a resource not commonly seen in a county of 23,000 people.

The proper response by community leaders to this effort should be to say thank you and ask how they can help.

Instead, Prince Edward County Administrator Doug Stanley and Supervisor Jim Wilck have criticized the decision to vaccinate faculty members instead of strictly following the guidelines set out by the state.

Quibbling over who is first in line is not a productive use of our time as a community in need of this vaccine. As the governor has pointed out, the key is to get shots in arms as quickly as possible to stop the spread of the virus.

In a letter to the editor, Wilck says the county could organize a drive-thru vaccination clinic with three paramedics. Great. When does that start? We needed it last week.

While the county sits on its can and talks about what it could do, Longwood is already doing it. The university is using its resources to solve a problem that has caused this community to lose jobs, revenue and patience.

Where is the county’s plan to vaccinate its teachers? We certainly haven’t seen it. The county should be partnering with Longwood to make sure that is a priority for future clinics.

Wilck also said Piedmont Health District Director Dr. H. Robert Nash should “find work elsewhere.” That’s just not helpful dialogue or the type of rhetoric we expect from our elected leaders in this environment. Nash has been a constant source of information and leadership through this pandemic. He will be remembered long after the pandemic is over as a person who helped guide the region through the crisis.

The truth is, we need everyone working together to solve this problem. We need Centra, the health department, CVS, Walgreens and the county all giving vaccinations as quickly as the supply will allow.

The number of people Longwood vaccinated in four days is impressive. The 650 people is 163 people per day. It would be interesting to know how many people they can vaccinate in an hour. Compare those numbers with Centra, which received 1,000 doses of the vaccine Dec. 23 and had vaccinated 552 people by Jan. 20. The health department has said it can vaccinate 40 people per day. It’s clear Longwood has the people and the process to speed Prince Edward’s vaccination process along.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday, Jan. 24, he expects the single-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson to be approved in less than two weeks. That will increase supply and cut the numbers of vaccines needed in half. Farmville needs to be ready when that happens.

We have no time or patience for political games. This is literally a life-and-death situation.

The pandemic has tested our resolve as a country and as communities. We have had successes and failures along the way. We have a chance to get this vaccination phase right and should not let petty sniping overshadow the work of those who step up to help.

Longwood University can help lead us out of this dark winter. The least our county leaders can do is get out of the way.

(The views in this editorial are of The Farmville Herald editorial staff. This editorial was written by Editor Roger Watson. He can be reached at Editor@FarmvilleHerald.com or (434) 808- 0622.)