University of Virginia health officials will shutter their Seminole Square COVID-19 vaccine center and close down the pop-up clinic on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall to shift the university’s public vaccination focus to its pharmacies and Medical Center.
The last day the Seminole Square clinic, in the former Big Lots storefront, will be open is July 2. On July 7, officials will begin providing vaccines by appointment at the COVID clinic in the Medical Center’s West Complex, at the intersection of Jefferson Park Avenue and Lee Street.
On June 25, UVa will host its last Downtown Mall clinic and will shutter all of its community pop-up clinics as of July 31.
Officials said they are planning to offer vaccinations at the Health System’s pharmacies across the region on an appointment basis, but have not set a date.
The move comes a day after the Blue Ridge Health District announced that its mass vaccination site at the former JC Penney store in Fashion Square mall will close June 24. The district will open a new, albeit smaller, site in another mall storefront June 28.
UVa has joined with the health district, Charlottesville Fire Department and other organizations to provide numerous vaccination events in the community, including pop-up vaccine clinics in schools, churches, community centers and even residences.
During a virtual press conference Friday, officials said they plan to pull out of that activity and leave it to other organizations.
“The numbers for all of these events continue to decline and sometimes we only get one or two vaccines [administered] at a location,” said Justin Vesser, a pharmacy supervisor for UVa Health. “At the same time, the Blue Ridge Health District and the Charlottesville Fire Department and other local entities have seen their abilities to operate similar events increase.”
“Those patients are often the most vulnerable and would have the worst outcomes should they contract COVID,” Vesser said. “We’ll continue to do that until there is no longer a demand.”
The last of the first-dose shots will be given July 2 at the Seminole Square site, officials said. Those receiving them will be given directions on how to make an appointment and where to go to get their second shot.
UVa Health will continue to help the health district and fire department provide vaccinations to residents who are homebound.
The demand for vaccinations has decreased as the number of vaccinated Central Virginians has increased. Albemarle County currently claims 79.9% of adults over the age of 18 have had at least one shot and 68.1% of Charlottesville residents are at least partly vaccinated, according to the health district.
Numbers are lower in some surrounding localities, including Louisa County, where 56.7% are vaccinated, according to district numbers.
UVa Medical Center officials say they have an average of nine adult patients being treated for COVID-19 in the hospital each day. Although vaccination clinics are contracting in favor of more focused and targeted efforts, officials worry the number of hospitalizations could increase because of the growing dominance of the COVID Delta variant.
The variant, which first surfaced in India, is increasing in prevalence across the state and country.
“It’s been found in more than 60 countries around the world,” said Dr. Costi Sifri, director of hospital epidemiology at UVa. “Compared to the Alpha variant, which was called the U.K. variant, it’s 50% more transmissible and the Alpha variant was 50% more transmissible than the original virus.”
Sifri said the Delta variant is likely a significant driver in the devastating surge of COVID cases seen in India and is causing the recent surge in the Great Britain. In the last month or so, it has been found in about 10% of cases across the country.
“It’s essentially doubling every two weeks, or even faster. If the math bears out, the Delta variant will become the primary variant across the country this summer,” he said. “Here in Virginia, there are places, including in our health district, where people are not as vaccinated as we would want and that could cause a surge. That’s not good because it is easier to transmit, it is [more virulent] and appears more likely to cause disease in younger people.”
Although the larger vaccination clinics are closing, officials said there will be plenty of options for people to get their shots, either through pharmacies, community events, doctor officers or the downsized clinics.
“The Blue Ridge Health District has launched its mobile vaccination unit, and the Charlottesville Fire Department is expected to begin using its mobile unit soon,” Vesser said.