Newport News shipyard's vaccination push moves into high gear
By DAVE RESS | The Daily Press | Published: March 19, 2021
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NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Tribune News Service) — Newport News Shipbuilding’s company-run COVID-19 vaccination push is giving shots to 1,000 employees a day after a start-and-stop launch last month.
Tight supplies of vaccine meant the shipyard went without for weeks after launching the effort in early February. But now, the yard’s supplies from the state are secure enough for it to hit a goal of vaccinating 70% of its 25,000 employees, said Dr. Steve Apostoles, the shipyard’s medical director.
So far, the yard’s vaccination clinic at the Apprentice School gym on Marshall Avenue has administered more than 5,000 doses, Apostoles said.
“We feel that the best way to beat the virus is to get shots in arms,” he said.
The logistics have been complicated, because the vaccines the yard uses must be administered in two doses, several weeks apart, Apostoles said. He said the center will continue to operate for as long as it takes to fully immunize all employees who want the vaccine.
Apostoles said most shipyard employees want to be vaccinated, although it is not required.
A rush of online requests for appointments last week overwhelmed the system, creating technical issues that kept some employees from making appointments, the yard’s COVID crisis action group reported.
The yard reopened the appointment system Thursday.
The system sets appointments based on the number of doses the yard receives. The center’s schedule also varies — on Monday and Tuesday, for instance, it will open at 3 a.m. for employees who work the second and third shifts.
If employees’ appointments are during work hours, their pay will not be docked for the time they take for vaccination.
Apostoles said he’s hoping the shipyard’s push will help keep the larger community safer too.
“We feel that the more people that we can get vaccinated and then they go out in the community being vaccinated, then that would be best for everybody,” he said.
The Virginia Department of Health has offered to run on-site vaccination programs at poultry processing plants and Tyson Foods and Perdue Inc. workers on the Eastern Shore have been vaccinated. Outbreaks at poultry plants have been a major worry for health officials.
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