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    ‘Great pride in their work’ – Charlottesville VA clinic ‘a godsend’ for local Veterans

    COVID-19 vaccine effort continues at Charlottesville Veterans Clinic – CVHCS totals nearly 23,000 doses

    Photo By T. T. Parish | Virginia Commonwealth University pharmacy student Vivian Vu assists COVID-19 Vaccine...... read more read more



    Story by T. T. Parish 

    Central Virginia VA Health Care System

    As the nationwide rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination continues – just last week, a new vaccine was granted Emergency Use Authorization by the Food and Drug Administration, with more vaccine variants in development – Central Virginia VA Health Care System (CVHCS) is firing on all cylinders. With four vaccine clinics in operation at least five days a week, nearly 23,000 doses have been administered to Veterans, VA employees and volunteers since vaccinations began before Christmas last year.

    For some, the vaccination appointment call could not have come soon enough, especially having already faced and survived one bout of COVID-19. James May Jr., the oldest WWII Veteran in the entirety of Orange County, Virginia, (population 36,010 as of 2019) received the first round of the Moderna vaccine March 2 at the Charlottesville VA Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC), with Daughter Denise Gipson at his side. Though a recent fight with the coronavirus proved a “breeze” according to Denise, at nearly 97-years young, James May Jr. is one lucky man.

    “I’m very, very glad. He had COVID back in November. We were very worried, but he did fantastic,” said Denise, who works with autistic school children in the local community. “We got very lucky, so when they called us for this, we said ‘How quick can you get him in?’ Because we knew it could happen again.”

    May, who served in Europe during the war, came home to work in the construction industry, later selling insurance – born and raised in Orange County, May has relied on the VA for health care for years. Before CVHCS expanded services at the Charlottesville CBOC in February 2016, May travelled to the Richmond campus for many health care needs. Now, May need only travel several miles southwest into Charlottesville to seek care through the VA. The convenience is advantageous for May, who is a great grandfather of two, according to Denise. But the ability to stay off the roads, limiting possible exposure to COVID-19 in larger communities, is heaven sent, said Denise.

    “It’s wonderful, they have been a godsend for him. We were having to go all the way to Richmond, but now a lot of things he can do right here. There are a lot of things that he still needs to go to the VA for, so it’s really good that they are here in Charlottesville, it’s so much closer.”

    Since severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19, began spreading across the U.S. last spring, nurses, doctors, administrators, emergency planners, maintenance and sanitation staff, screeners and medical support assistants with CVHCS have focused almost exclusively on the response to the pandemic. It has been an all-hands approach in response to an ever-shifting local, regional and national public health crisis.

    Now, with the end hopefully coming into view as wide-spread vaccinations progress, the Charlottesville CBOC is meeting a critical need for Veterans residing west of the Commonwealth’s capital city. As of March 4, more than 900 Veterans have received at least one dose of the lifesaving Vaccine at the Charlottesville CBOC. The effort is a testament to the focus, care and commitment of the clinic’s staff, and Veterans have taken notice, according to retired pastor and U.S. Navy Veteran James Allison, who served aboard the USS Forrestal (CV-59) during the Vietnam War.

    “It’s quite an honor, the whole VA system has been excellent for me,” said Allison, who served aboard the Forrestal as a gunners’ mate technician from 1969 through 1971. After returning home, Allison joined the textile industry before leading ministry at both the New Bern and Nortonville Churches of God. “I’ve gotten excellent service for everything they’ve offered to me, so I’m very appreciative of it.”

    Now living in Dyke, roughly 20-miles north of C-Ville as it is sometimes called, Allison appreciates the systematic approach the CBOC staff have taken since they began the vaccination clinic the third week of January. While he was anxious to get in-line for inoculation, Allison patiently awaited his turn in the vaccination chair.

    “I think it’s very important that our active duty and health care workers get the vaccine, and I’m thankful that [CBOC staff] have a system set up to take care of those with critical issues and severe health issues,” said Allison. “And the VA was able to work with them first and move down the line. I’m grateful that I have very few health conditions and I’m satisfied with the fact that I was able to wait for a while.”

    With nearly 900 individual doses of the vaccine dispensed to this point, the Charlottesville CBOC staff have been putting as many shots in as many arms as possible for more than a month. The team effort extends outside the confines of the VA. CVHCS has a longstanding affiliation with Virginia Commonwealth University medicine – today, medical professionals-to-be are gaining firsthand experience as part of the nation’s largest, most expansive vaccination effort in history. The experience is unparalleled and the contributions innumerable, according to Vivian Vu, who will graduate from the VCU School of Pharmacy this May.

    “I feel very honored to be included in such an important, memorable event in our history and to be able to do this for our community of Veterans,” said Vu, who grew up in sunny Garden Grove, California. “I pursued a career in pharmacy to have opportunities such as this and to be directly involved in patient care. It is a rewarding feeling to know that we are making a difference in the lives of our most vulnerable patients.”

    For Vu, who graduated from University of California-Irvine with a degree in Sociology before moving east to VCU “for a change of scenery,” the teamwork within the Charlottesville CBOC vaccine clinic is indicative of the larger sense of purpose and commitment inside CVHCS as a whole. While the road is a long one, the horizon is coming into view, speeded by the united effort of so many caring health care professionals – and trainees.

    “Everyone that I have worked with at the VA in Charlottesville has been incredibly supportive, knowledgeable, friendly, and take great pride in their work,” said Vu, who began working the vaccine clinic only a few weeks ago. “At the vaccine clinic, we encourage teamwork by keeping open lines of communication, celebrating successes and working with individual strengths. The staff at our vaccine clinic have a very optimistic and supportive mentality. The positive work culture truly makes working at the VA such a dream. The overall consensus among our Veterans is the feeling of joy and relief that we are that much closer to getting back a bit of normality.”

    Media and stakeholder point-of-contact for this release is Tim Parish, Public Affairs Officer, Central Virginia VA Health Care System;; 804-675-5242.



    Date Taken: 03.04.2021
    Date Posted: 03.04.2021 13:12
    Story ID: 390582
    Hometown: DYKE, VA, US
    Hometown: GARDEN GROVE, CA, US

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