CHHS faculty and students work to expand vaccination distribution in areas surrounding Mason
BY JAMES TALOCKA STAFF WRITER
The nationwide COVID-19 vaccine rollout has experienced delays which are being felt in Northern Virginia. Despite this, Mason’s College of Health and Human Services has been actively distributing the vaccine throughout the region.
Expanding eligibility, coupled with a lack of supply, has led Northern Virginia counties to expect significant delays in administering the vaccine to residents. Both the Fairfax and Prince William County Health Departments have announced that demand in Phase 1b, which includes groups such as senior citizens and those with underlying health conditions, would likely not be fulfilled until at least March.
Constraints on the vaccine supply have been exacerbated by a new federal and state distribution mechanism that allocates vaccine doses to localities based on population, rather than by the number of doses requested by each region. The resulting reduction in supply prompted the Inova Health System to cancel first dose appointments as of Jan. 26.
Supply is the primary issue with vaccine rollout in the region, according to Dr. Rebecca Sutter, assistant professor of nursing and head of the Mason and Partners Clinics.
“The concept is great as long as you have supply,” she said. “So, I think we’re in this catch-22 because I think that the idea is there but there’s just not the influx of the vaccine.”
She also characterized the distribution as “an administrative nightmare” due to backlogs that have occurred in vaccine data entry, which Virginia’s vaccine coordinator Danny Avula said explains the poor distribution record the state held until late January in an interview with the Virginian-Pilot.
Sutter along with faculty, staff and students from Mason’s CHHS operate MAP Clinics in nine locations throughout Fairfax and Prince William Counties. They primarily provide health care to uninsured residents but have played an integral role in administering the vaccine throughout Northern Virginia.
Sutter said that Mason-operated clinics receive and administer as many as one third of the weekly doses allocated to Prince William County, accounting for about 1,000 doses per week.
MAP Clinics also provide treatment to those struggling with opioid addiction during the pandemic.
“I don’t ever want us to forget that in the middle of the pandemic we do still have an opioid epidemic, and actually a worsening epidemic,” Sutter said.
In addition to MAP clinics, Beacon Hall on Mason’s Manassas campus has been Prince William’s flagship vaccination clinic.
Mason has also actively supported two Fairfax County Health Department mass vaccination clinics at the Hub and EagleBank Arena. In an email to students, Associate Vice President for Safety, Emergency, and Enterprise Management Julie Zobel said the two-day clinics would serve eligible Fairfax County residents and employees and would also be operated by Mason faculty, staff and students.