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Area Health District launches campaign to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations
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Area Health District launches campaign to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations

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Culpeper-area clergymen RRHD

A video series from the area Health District features (clockwise, from top left) Dr. Tyronne Champion, senior pastor of True Deliverance Ministries in Bealeton; the Rev. Habacuc Diaz Lopez, pastor of Culpeper’s Primera Iglesia Bautista Maranatha congregation; Father Kevin Walsh, pastor of Precious Blood Catholic Church; the Rev. Benjamin Maas, rector of St. James Episcopal Church; the Rev. Dan Carlton, pastor of Culpeper Baptist Church; and Alex Smith, worship leader at Culpeper Baptist Church.

“I chose to get the vaccine because I don’t want to get sick. And I don’t want people to get sick from me, either.”

“I got vaccinated for my grandchildren.”

These are among the voices that people will hear in new videos just released by the Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District, the public-health agency that serves Culpeper, Orange, Madison, Fauquier and Rappahannock counties.

The videos aim to better inform area residents who may feel hesitant about receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, and to answer their questions, the district said in a statement.

Supported partly by the Warrenton-based PATH Foundation, the series features testimonials from patients, doctors and community leaders who have received the shot.

One of those people is Alex Smith, the worship leader and music director at Culpeper Baptist Church.

“As we all know, this past year has been very challenging and tough for many of us,” Smith says in one video. “If you’ve lost someone, like I have, you know the importance of getting the COVID vaccine, so we can all get back to some sort of normalcy.”

The Rev. Habacuc Diaz Lopez, pastor of Culpeper’s Primera Iglesia Bautista Maranatha congregation; Father Kevin Walsh, pastor of Precious Blood Catholic Church; the Rev. Benjamin Maas, rector of St. James Episcopal Church; and the Rev. Dan Carlton, pastor of Culpeper Baptist Church; and Dr. Tyronne Champion, senior pastor of True Deliverance Ministries in Bealeton, share their thoughts and experiences as clergy in the videos.

The videos address several concerns expressed by area residents.

Some people may be worried about the efficacy of the vaccines; others are concerned about potential side effects, the district said.

April Achter, the district’s health coordinator, emphasized that COVID-19 vaccines not only are safe, but are an essential part of people safely returning to pre-pandemic life.

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“We know it has been a difficult year, and that many may feel uncertainty about the vaccination process,” Achter said. “By sharing science and real-life experiences from folks who have been vaccinated, these videos will help reassure our community that the shots are safe and effective.

“Vaccines are our best shot at normalcy, and keeping our families and communities safe,” she added.

As vaccination rates have increased in the district, vaccine doses have become more widely available. Many locations cater to walk-in visitors who want a vaccination.

“There are so many vaccines available at this time,” said Dr. Joshua Jakum of Piedmont Pediatrics in Warrenton. “For those who are hesitant, we hope we can answer your questions and bring you peace of mind around your decision.”

The videos are being shared on the Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District’s Facebook page at facebook.com/RappRapHD.

To see the whole series (scroll down), visit vaccinatepiedmont.com.

Across the regional health district, mass vaccination clinics started off with a bang in January, February and March, and then began to taper off, reaching a decision point in May and June, Dr. Colin Greene, the district’s director, said in an interview.

“It was obvious we would need to close our large vaccination sites by the end of June,” Greene said.

The district’s vaccination clinic at Germanna Community College’s Daniel Technology Center in the town of Culpeper closed on June 24.

Pharmacies, physicians’ offices and the clinics at the Health District’s county offices have picked up a lot of the slack in getting shots in people’s arms, Greene said.

To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccines or find a free appointment, visit rrhd.org or vaccines.gov.

For more on COVID-19 in Virginia, visit vdh.virginia.gov/covid-19-vaccine.

Star-Exponent staff writer Clint Schemmer contributed to this report.

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Clint Schemmer, a journalist since 1980, has worked at papers in California, North Carolina and Virginia. He’s been a bureau chief, editorial-page editor, copy desk chief and local news editor. Now a staff writer at the Culpeper Star-Exponent.

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