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AU deal with food bank is a sign of shifting focus for shots

Published: Apr. 28, 2021 at 3:22 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 28, 2021 at 4:20 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Augusta University Health and Golden Harvest Food Bank are forming a partnership to help bring coronavirus vaccines to underserved communities.

AU Health plans to bring its mobile vaccine units to Golden Harvest mobile markets, which are contactless drive-thru food distributions for those in need.

The goal is to offer vaccinations to those who are in line to get food.

It comes as the nation seems to be shifting its approach to vaccination.

With demand falling and some providers even shuttering clinics — like a state-operated vaccination site in Washington County — the emphasis seems to be shifting from large-scale efforts to smaller ones.

The mass-vaccination approach has required advance appointments that often must be made online — an obstacle when trying to reach older and underserved populations that either can’t get or don’t want reliable internet service.

The emerging approach seems to focus on smaller operations that bring vaccination to those who need it but who won’t come to the large-scale operations. This new approach relies more on churches, nonprofits and other community organizations.

And walk-ins are often welcomed instead of being turned away.

For example:

  • On Saturday, the Richmond County Health Department will hold a Johnson & Johnson vaccine day at Craig Houghton Elementary, 1001 Fourth St. in Augusta. Appointments are available at https://ecphd.com/jandj, but walk-ins are welcome for the first-come, first served event.
  • On Wednesday, Aiken Regional Medical Center held a clinic at the University of South Carolina Aiken student activity center. And walk-ins were more than welcome.
  • University Hospital is offering a first-dose Pfizer vaccination clinic Thursday at Tabernacle Baptist Church on Laney Walker Boulevard. Saying “very few people” had signed up, the hospital decided to leave registration open until the last minute and to encourage walk-ins.
  • And just this week, AU Health launched another outreach operation in south Augusta at Diamond Lakes Regional Park. Although it’s still not accepting walk-ins or even phone appointments, the effort is a step toward bringing the vaccine to a part of town that may often feel left out.

Despite the decline in demand for vaccinations, coronavirus expert Dr. Anthony Fauci says the U.S. needs to be vaccinating 3 million people a day to maintain the turning point the nation has reached against COVID-19.

Right now, vaccinations are down from the peak of 2.4 million a day at the beginning of April.

Also in the news ...

  • On Tuesday, University Hospital in Augusta has 21 COVID-19 inpatients. That’s up from 18 in Monday, but far down from three months ago, when the hospital system had 118 inpatients on Jan. 28.

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