Almost a year into the pandemic, the scene still seemed surreal: Thousands of masked people converging on Scope Saturday — some in wheelchairs, some with walkers — eager for a vaccine that could save their lives and make the world normal again.
The sight was the same across Hampton Roads, where three-large scale COVID-19 vaccination clinics aimed to inject 13,000 arms by the end of the day.
The clinics — at Scope, the Virginia Beach Convention Center and the Hampton Roads Convention Center — were by appointment only and open mostly to those in the 1B category: 65 and up, younger people with certain medical conditions and front-line essential workers.
Sentara Healthcare ran the operations in Hampton and at Scope, where media was not allowed inside because of privacy concerns. At Scope, everything appeared smooth from the outside — none of the long lines that have been common in other places. Just a steady stream of people, arriving at their assigned times, instead of a flood of folks worried they’ll miss their chance.
Iris Lundy, Sentara’s director of health equity, came out to speak with reporters while communications staff provided video and photos of the situation inside.
“It’s going great,” Lundy said. With 60 inoculation stations and enough Moderna vaccines to cover the 5,000 appointments lined up, “we’re moving everyone right along.”
Emerging from the arena, Russell Cerro, 77, confirmed Lundy’s description.
“I was in and out in half an hour,” said Cerro, retired Navy, “and that included making the appointment for my second shot.”
Barbara Cummings had one of the first appointments of the day, at 7:15 a.m.
“But there were already quite a few people and everyone just seemed very calm and very orderly,” she said.
Most of the recipients were patients of the Sentara system. About 2,000, though, were intentionally plucked from traditionally underserved populations.
Lundy said Sentara partnered with organizations and faith leaders to conduct outreach in Black and brown communities.
Cummings, later in the day, said her arm is sore but she already feels safer with just the first dose in her bloodstream.
“We’ve all been going through this for so long,” she said.
Cummings has been able to work from home — at 60, underlying health conditions made her eligible for the current vaccination phase — but she misses colleagues at the container ship company in Norfolk where she’s employed.
She didn’t mind getting up before dawn and heading out into the cold for an opportunity to roll up her sleeve.
“You could feel it in there — everyone just seemed relieved,” she said. “If I’d had to get up at 2 o’clock in morning to make it, I would have been glad to do it. We were all on a mission.”
Joanne Kimberlin, 757-446-2338, firstname.lastname@example.org