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Local health district beats state average for 1st dose COVID vaccines given
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Local health district beats state average for 1st dose COVID vaccines given

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The Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District covering the Culpeper area had provided at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine to 13.7 percent of its population as of Thursday, Feb. 18—higher than the state average of 12.6 percent, according to the latest release from RRHD Health Director Dr. Wade Kartchner.

The local health district also hit a record this week for shots given in a single day as other local partners work to support those efforts.

Vaccine supply is still limited, though local administration of available doses continues to be organized and collaborative. This is as the area’s health district will be without a permanent director. Kartchner, who is retiring, has announced his last day will be March 5.

Dr. Colin Greene, Lord Fairfax Health District health director, will serve as acting director here for the foreseeable future upon Kartchner’s retirement next month. The Lord Fairfax Health District spans Winchester and the upper Shenandoah Valley area.

“He is a retired army doc and has been the health director across the mountain for about four years,” Kartchner said.

RRHD population health coordinator April Achter will step into the role of RRHD Incident Commander, the local contact and face of coronavirus response in Culpeper, Fauquier, Madison, Orange and Rappahannock, the retiring doctor said.

“She will be in close contact with Dr. Greene on any pandemic response issues,” Kartchner said.

RRHD has been vaccinating local residents since December with partners such as the hospital, pharmacies, county emergency services and volunteers.

“Our small but mighty team here at the RRHD continues to hold vaccination clinics four times a week at Germanna Community College in Culpeper,” Kartchner said, providing a link to compare Virginia vaccination data.

Being above the state average locally for first dose administration, “That is a tremendous accomplishment for our partners and for our team,” Kartchner said.

“I know they don’t hear it enough, but I am so proud of the work they are doing,” he added. “I also know there are many detractors out there (we hear from them daily), but I truly feel that most of the negativity dissipates when they understand the constraints we are under regarding vaccine availability or when they visit our Germanna clinic for their own vaccine and see how the operations flows.”

Positive feedback is also received, he said, “And I know our team would appreciate a shout out now and then to help them continue the pace they are setting.”

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On Wednesday, the RRHD team hit a new record with 870 vaccinations given at the central regional vaccination site at Germanna’s Daniel Technology Center.

To those still waiting, “We will get through this and come out of this stronger and more resilient. Please be patient,” Kartchner said.

Charts he provided showed local daily COVID-19 cases continue to fall while statewide, virus deaths peaked in late December, while hospitalizations continue to show increases.

The new statewide vaccine registration system, launched this week, replaces the local online system. Sign up here.

The state also launched the Vaccinate Virginia dedicated call center operating 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, at 877/VAX-IN-VA or 877/829- 4682.

In addition to the efforts of RRHD, Culpeper County Emergency Services has partnered with Culpeper Medical Center to provide a few hundred more vaccination doses weekly for residents of Culpeper and Madison counties.

A first clinic from that partnership was held last week at Madison Volunteer Fire Company and another this past Wednesday at Culpeper Middle School.

EMS and the hospital are working off the list maintained by VDH of those already registered in providing the extra vaccination clinic support.

“The Health District is still doing the Germanna clinic and we are going to augment that with the hospital to try to push extra doses into our community,” said Culpeper County EMS Director Bill Ooten in a phone call on Friday.

Culpeper County EMS is also serving as a local call center to answer questions and help with vaccine scheduling at 540/727-9719.

On Friday, EMS workers along with employees from other Culpeper County departments were scheduling appointments for a clinic this coming Wednesday at Culpeper Middle School.

“It’s a 100 percent collaborative effort between emergency services and the hospital, we combined forces and are helping each other and getting lists and making phone calls,” Ooten said.

Per VDH guidance, vaccines are currently being given to those in the 1b priority group, including a range of essential worker positions and those aged 65 and older. Local vaccine priority is being split 50-50 between those two groups, Ooten said.

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