2021-4-7

Virginia Expands COVID-19 Vaccination Workforce, Creates Additional Pathway to Enlist Volunteer Vaccinators

Qualified individuals can now sign up through the newly established Virginia Volunteer Vaccinator Registry

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced several efforts aimed at increasing Virginia’s vaccinator workforce to support the continued expansion of COVID-19 vaccinations across the Commonwealth, including a new initiative to recruit eligible individuals interested in administering vaccines.

Governor Northam recently signed House Bill 2333, sponsored by Delegate Lamont Bagby, and Senate Bill 1445, sponsored by Senator Siobhan S. Dunnavant, which expand the pool of health care providers eligible to administer the COVID-19 vaccine in Virginia. Last month, the Governor issued Third Amended Executive Order Fifty-Seven to provide additional flexibility to health care providers in supporting the Commonwealth’s vaccination program and ongoing COVID-19 response. Earlier this week, Governor Northam announced that starting April 18, all adults in Virginia age 16 and older will be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine. 

“Last year, we issued a call for 30,000 medical and non-medical volunteers to join our fight against COVID-19, and I am proud that over 35,000 Virginians have since stepped forward to assist through the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps,” said Governor Northam. “Thanks to the tireless efforts of our health care providers and volunteer vaccinators, Virginia is now administering an average of more than 70,000 of the COVID-19 vaccine each day and has given over 3.8 million shots to date. By further expanding our vaccinator workforce, we can build on this momentum and ensure we have additional vaccination capacity as supply increases and more individuals become eligible to receive the vaccine.”

Health care providers who are now authorized to administer the COVID-19 vaccine in Virginia include but are not limited to dentists, dental hygienists, veterinarians, optometrists, and health professions students enrolled in an accredited Virginia program. Eligible providers may serve as vaccinators if they have the appropriate training and meet the supervision requirements. All COVID-19 vaccine providers are responsible for ensuring that individuals who administer shots at their site are authorized by law to do so.

Eligible health care providers may register to volunteer as a COVID-19 vaccinator through either the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) or the newly-established Virginia Volunteer Vaccinator Registry (VVVR).

“These efforts to increase the ranks of vaccinators will immediately affect Virginians and their ability to get vaccinated as quickly as possible,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA. “We need ‘all hands on deck’ as we ramp up our vaccination campaign, and the legislation introduced by Delegate Bagby and Senator Dunnavant is crucial to providing additional tools for these unprecedented times.” 

Established in 2002, the Virginia MRC is a force of dedicated volunteers who stand ready to support the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) in responding to public health emergencies and addressing ongoing public health initiatives. MRC volunteer vaccinators are required to complete a background investigation, volunteer orientation, vaccination-specific training as outlined by the VDH and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and a skills assessment to demonstrate competency in administering the COVID-19 vaccine. MRC medical volunteers may have the opportunity to serve in other positions and response missions.

The VVVR is a temporary COVID-19 emergency program administered by VDH and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) that serves as a pathway for eligible providers who only wish to serve as vaccinators during the COVID-19 response. Qualified registry volunteers are required to complete vaccination-specific training as outlined by the CDC and VDH and demonstrate competency in administering the COVID-19 vaccine. A list of credentialed volunteers will be made available to hospitals, non-profit agencies, and local health departments operating community vaccination clinics upon request.  

Registering through either pathway is not a guarantee that an eligible health care provider will be enlisted to vaccinate, and volunteers may not be deployed immediately. While most Virginia localities are meeting the current need for COVID-19 vaccinators through existing workforce channels, demand is expected to increase alongside the Commonwealth’s growing supply of federally allocated vaccines.

For more information or to sign up as an MRC or VVVR volunteer, please visit vdh.virginia.gov/covid-19-community-vaccinator.

Graduates Serving on the Frontlines

By Quentin R. Johnson, Ph.D.

Have you recently had a medical appointment? Conducted business online? Needed your electricity restored after storm damage? If so, you may have benefited from the expertise of an SVCC graduate. Our graduates fill frontline positions all across Southside Virginia.

For example, earlier this year, our nursing students helped administer COVID vaccines to 1,500 people. Every year, hundreds of students graduate from our nursing and other allied health programs. The Associate Degree of Applied Science with a major in Nursing (ADN) program prepares men and women to become Registered Nurses. After licensure, RNs fill staffing needs at locations such as physicians’ offices, hospitals, long-term care facilities, clinics, and public health agencies. Graduates of our other healthcare programs, including Practical Nursing, Nurse Aide, Phlebotomy, and Medication Aide, fill specific roles within interdisciplinary teams that serve patients and their families in many settings.

If you or a loved one has experienced an emergency, it may have been an SVCC graduate who rushed to provide assistance. Our programs train emergency medical service technicians at a range of levels from volunteer to professional and from basic to advanced and paramedic. In addition, graduates from our Administration of Justice programs help protect their communities by serving as local and state law enforcement officers and in other public safety roles, such as correctional and security officers.

For many of us, the pandemic increased the need to interact with the world digitally, using home computers and smartphones to access the internet. Graduates from SVCC’s cutting-edge Information Technology (IT) programs stepped up and helped us connect. Although IT workers may not be as visible as the phlebotomist who draws your blood, they have worked tirelessly behind the scenes on behalf of colleges, universities, and school systems to develop and maintain the infrastructure that has enabled students and teachers to work together remotely. IT workers also provided the tools needed to keep local businesses up and running. Some IT professionals have supported workers who moved from office locations to their own living rooms, some have deployed systems that kept supply chains open, and others have provided creative solutions to keep entrepreneurs in touch with their customers.

In addition to challenges presented by the coronavirus, last February’s massive ice storm created numerous problems throughout our region. Tree limbs came crashing down. Utility poles snapped. Thousands of homes and businesses lost electrical power. Graduates from SVCC’s Power Line Worker program were among those who came to the rescue and helped restore power.

Although disasters and calamities draw attention to the need for workers in high-profile areas such as these, other tasks of restoring and maintaining normality rest on many shoulders. SVCC works diligently to prepare people for a vast range of careers that support the local economy and enhance our enjoyment of every day. We train the truck drivers who deliver goods; we train the mechanics who repair the trucks. Our HVAC graduates ensure the safety and comfort of people at home and at work. Our cosmetology graduates make sure you look your best.

SVCC is proud of its role in helping people prepare for diverse careers and to take on responsibilities in today’s everchanging society. Please visit the College’s website (southside.edu) for more information about how SVCC, its students, and alumni contribute to the wellbeing of communities across Southside Virginia.

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Dr. Quentin R. Johnson is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the City of Emporia. He can be reached via email at quentin.johnson@southside.edu.

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