NORFOLK, Va. - People started to arrive at Military Circle Mall on Monday, not to shop but to get their COVID-19 vaccines.
The mall is one of several sites selected by the White House and Governor Ralph Northam to be turned into a vaccination clinic. The vaccines will only be administered to those who sign up for up appointments through the Vaccinate Virginia webpage.
“Today we’re looking to do 900 as a practice,” David Thomason, external relations representative with FEMA, told News 3, referring to the vaccine dosages. “We just want to make sure we work out the kinks."
Thomason said Monday and Tuesday will serve as test runs for the operation. FEMA is at the helm of the operation.
“You can plan, plan, plan, but a plan Falls apart the first time it hits reality,” Thomason said. “We want to make sure that’s not the case here."
On Wednesday, FEMA will increase the dosages of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine from 900 to 3,000 for the next six weeks. Thomason added there will be an extra two weeks, but for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
“We just want to make sure we don’t have growing pains when we do open,” Thomason said.
One pain they will not have to worry about are the need for helpers. FEMA is counting on local volunteers for additional help.
"These volunteers are non-clinical individuals,” Stephanie Gorham, the executive director with Volunteer Hampton Roads, explained, “and they are assisting vaccinators with other duties like greeting, registration and traffic flow."
Gorham said FEMA reached out to them for volunteers. She added the organization has helped with disaster relief, but that this is the first time they are helping out a vaccine clinic.
"They had a pod set up in Philadelphia and they were assisted by a volunteer center similar to Hampton Roads,” Gorham said.
Volunteer Hampton Roads is still looking for volunteers who can work one or many five-hour shifts over the next several weeks.
“It’s about helping each other, it’s about something bigger than yourself and just feeling that you’re part of the solution,” Gorham said. “We want people to really think about their commitment to volunteering because once you register, we’re counting on you to be there."
Anyone interested in signing up to volunteer can do so through Volunteer Hampton Road’s website by clicking here. Volunteers must be 18 years or older and must not have had COVID-19 symptoms or tested positive for the virus.
Gorham also encourages college students to volunteer as some degrees may require community service.