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Volunteers lead vaccine efforts

There were both first-timers and seasoned vets at the Prince Edward/Farmville Youth Association (PEFYA) gym Wednesday afternoon ready to volunteer their time to help at one of the health district’s weekly vaccination clinics.

A variety of volunteers come out each week to help put on the regular vaccine clinics.

Many of the volunteers donate their time and energy to the clinics in hopes of eradicating COVID-19 from the community.

On Wednesday, June 23, Kerry Mossler was sitting at the sign-in table outside of the gym. Mossler, who works at Centra Southside Community Hospital in Farmville as a community engagement manager, said she began volunteering at the hospital’s vaccination clinics as soon as they began to be offered. Now, she volunteers at the PEFYA clinic whenever possible.

Mossler hopes to see everyone vaccinated against the coronavirus.

“I hope I can inspire somebody to get vaccinated,” she said.

Also present at the sign-in table Wednesday were volunteers Rita Anema and Patsy Watson.

Although Anema and other family members volunteered many hours of their time during the ice storms which occurred back in February, Wednesday was her first time volunteering at the PEFYA clinic.

Outside the gym, citizens preparing to receive their vaccine are able to sign up for raffles and even scholarships as further motivation to receive the shot.

After registering inside, residents enter a waiting area before being called over to get their vaccine. After the vaccine is administered, individuals wait between 10 to 30 minutes to ensure an allergic reaction does not occur before exiting. Many freebies are offered on the way out the door.

On Wednesday, Mossler, Anema and Watson were encouraging visitors to take photos with customized “selfie frames” announcing they had been vaccinated.

According to Watson, approximately 158 volunteers have come through the PEFYA gym since the beginning of March. Watson also estimated approximately 240 volunteers have assisted with the groundwork to make the clinic a possibility, emphasizing the huge effort done by all.

In speaking about getting the numbers up in terms of vaccine recipients, Watson noted she hopes employers will encourage their employees to get vaccinated by providing time off for employees to get the shot, including a possible sick day if they do not feel well the day after vaccination.

Mossler highlighted her belief that science plays a large role in getting the community out of this pandemic.

“We need to listen to the science, and the only way we’re going to get back to normal is if everybody gets vaccinated,” she said. “So to me, it’s just the right thing to do.”

Anema said she came out to volunteer on Wednesday because she wants to help put an end to the pandemic. She hopes those who are hesitant to get the vaccine will consider stopping by.

“My son is deathly afraid of needles, and he got the shot,” she said.

Cindy DeBusk, nurse manager for the Piedmont Health District, was present inside the gym as she oversaw the clinic’s operations.

DeBusk noted the clinic, which currently utilizes the Pfizer vaccine, occurs every Wednesday from 1 to 6 p.m., allowing many working parents to come after work and bring their children 12 and up to be vaccinated as well.

She noted the clinic will occur every Wednesday from now through the month of July. During July, hours will change from 2 to 6 p.m.

DeBusk noted the Wednesday clinic typically sees between 30-50 shot-seeking citizens each day, although the number of visitors has begun to taper. Since March, the clinic has also offered vaccines on Friday, but the health district will no longer offer Friday clinics at the PEFYA gym after June 25 due to decreased frequency in Friday visitors.

Mossler noted Wednesday while the line for vaccines used to stretch out the door during the early stages of vaccination release, things have slowed to a much more manageable pace.

“It was tricky during the beginning,” she said.

Watson added the clinic tends to be busiest during lunch and dinner hours.

DeBusk said the PEFYA clinic will begin to also offer the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine beginning in July. The clinic will not offer Moderna due to the fact that the Moderna vaccine is offered at so many other clinics and pharmacies in the surrounding area.

Many of Wednesday’s volunteers could be seen sporting camo. Guardsmen from the Virginia National Guard have been assisting with many vaccination clinics across the state.

On Wednesday, Staff Sgt. Michael Yelton explained the guardsmen, who have come out on volunteer status to help with the clinics, are at different sites every week handling the logistical support side of vaccination and in some cases administering shots. Wherever the health department needs them, they are there to help.

Yelton said he has lost a number of family and friends to COVID-19. It is important to him to be able to go into communities to discuss health and help out wherever and whenever possible.

“Education is key,” he said.