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Nearly half of healthcare workers at Lynchburg clinic opt-out of COVID vaccine-- for now
A nurse prepares a shot as a study of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., gets underway in Binghamton, N.Y. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)

Hospitals and clinics across Virginia are rushing to vaccinate healthcare workers, but some of the people who are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine won't yet sit down for the shot. 

In Lynchburg, the Free Clinic of Central Virginia is administering vaccines to its healthcare workers and volunteers. Staff at the Free Clinic, as well as the Community Access Network, can sign up for timeslots to get vaccinated. 

The clinic's CEO, Christina Delzingaro, said about half of the 300 staff members and volunteers are accepting the vaccine.

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"You know, it is a very new vaccine. There is a little bit of hesitancy about if this has been thoroughly vetted," she said, "It has been thoroughly vetted, but it is a new vaccine and we don't have the background on the use of it over time like we do with other vaccines."

Delzingaro said the newness of the COVID-19 vaccine, potential long-term implications and a distrust of vaccines among under-served and minority communities all play a role in some of the staff's decision not to vaccinate just yet. 

"The Lynchburg community, in particular, is very influenced by friends and family and things they hear from the people that they trust," she said, "I think as folks become more comfortable, as time goes on, as more people get vaccinated, they'll hear from their friends, families and medical providers that this is important."

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Delzingaro said the clinic is still vaccinating people who fall into group 1A: healthcare workers and those at the highest risk of infection. When the clinic moves to the next vaccination group 1B, she said staff will let their eligible patients know when it is time to set up their appointment.

"We strongly encourage our employees and volunteers to get the vaccine because it's really important," Delzingaro said, "But we are not mandating it at this time."

Other health systems in the Lynchburg area are also administering the vaccines. In an email, a spokesperson with Centra said the health system has given out nearly 7,000 doses of the vaccine to people in group 1A as of January 12. The spokesperson went on to say Centra is not polling its healthcare workers to know for sure who does not want to receive the vaccine; the health system only keeps track of the number of vaccines administered. Centra said its caregivers can opt-in for the vaccine at any time. 

A spokesperson for SOVAH Health in Danville said the hospital has administered more than 2,490 vaccines to healthcare workers, including staff and physicians, and first responders. 

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"We have not mandated vaccination for our employees, but we are encouraged by participation levels thus far," the SOVAH spokesperson said in an email. 

A spokesperson for Carilion Clinic in Roanoke said it has vaccinated more than 8,000 of its healthcare workers. 

'We do not require employees to be vaccinated, but we encourage it," a spokesperson for Carilion Clinic said in an email. 

Carilion said it offers the vaccine to employees as clinics become available. If employees don’t enroll, Carilion doesn't know if that’s due to a scheduling conflict or because the employee is opting not to take the vaccine.

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