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Emporia Emergency Services Program Coordinator Mike Rae, seated, directs registered citizens coming for COVID-19 vaccinations Wednesday at the Golden Leaf Commons.

The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in Emporia-Greensville has improved drastically in the past week. From Wednesday to Saturday, staff from the Walmart Pharmacy in Emporia vaccinated thousands of residents age 65 and up at the Golden Leaf Commons.

On Wednesday alone, 611 residents received the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Larry Dixon, Walmart’s market health and wellness director for Southside Virginia, said initially the four-day event was only supposed to supply 1,200 vaccine doses. Monday, he and his team learned that had number doubled to 2,400 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

“I’m from South Central Virginia,” Dixon said, “so I know the challenges of the community. And we knew that there were challenges getting this vaccine out here. I’ve told my people this is probably the most rewarding thing that I have done. I’ve been in health and wellness for over 15 years.”

Previously, the Pfizer vaccine had been unavailable in Emporia-Greensville due to its need for ultra-cold storage.

A team of 10 pharmacists from Walmart pharmacies across Southside Virginia helped administer doses to residents during the event. Dixon said while most residents who received vaccines were from Emporia or Greensville County, some travelled from nearby localities to fill appointments as needed.

Residents vaccinated between Wednesday and Saturday will receive their second dose in three weeks.

During the Greensville County Board of Supervisors meeting last Monday, County Emergency Services Coordinator Reggie Owens said the Virginia Department of Health would begin using contracted providers to conduct vaccination clinics in the area and across the state. Walmart pharmacies across the state conducted mass vaccination clinics beginning last week.

“This is a lifesaver for the community,” Owens said. “We’re going to be able to get over 2,000 people vaccinated in four days. This is godsend to the community, to get all of these people vaccinated.”

Walmart’s vaccination clinics were conducted using names already on the state’s pre-registration list, state vaccination coordinator Danny Avula said in a press conference Wednesday. Individuals cannot register for a vaccine directly through Walmart.

Avula said everyone in Phase 1B who wants to receive a vaccine should be able to receive both doses by the end of April. He added that everyone in the general public who wants the vaccine should be able to receive at least their first dose by the end of May. That statement coincides with President Biden’s recent tweet stating that due to increased production, the U.S. would have enough vaccines for every American by the end of May. Previously, Biden stated that would not be accomplished until the end of July.

Emporia Emergency Services Coordinator Mike Rae said the vaccine clinics being conducted by Crater Health District on Tuesday nights would continue for those individuals who need to receive the second dose of their Moderna vaccine.

This news comes as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine begins to arrive in states and local health departments. Avula said Virginia would initially receive 69,000 doses of the one-dose vaccine, and could begin receiving 100,000 doses per week by the last week in March. The state plans to use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at mass vaccination events across the state, since it does not require a second appointment.

Last week marked another vaccine milestone, as Virginia surpassed 2 million vaccine doses administered. On Wednesday, VDH reported 716,660 Virginians had been fully vaccinated.

Last Tuesday, VDH began reporting vaccine data from the City of Emporia and Greensville County separately for the first time since vaccines began being distributed. As of Wednesday, in Emporia, a total of 788 vaccine doses had been administered, with a total of 305 individuals being fully vaccinated. In Greensville County, 2,232 vaccine doses had been administered, with 791 individuals having received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.