‘Absolutely exciting’: Berglund Center holds first COVID vaccine clinic open to general public

Nearly 5,000 people got vaccinated in Roanoke

ROANOKE, Va. – The Roanoke Valley took a major step forward in the fight against COVID-19 on Wednesday as officials held the first vaccine clinic open to the general public.

A steady stream of people came into the Berglund Center since early morning as nearly 5,000 people got their shots, making the light at the end of the tunnel a little brighter.

“We’re just kind of sick of sitting around the house, not being able to go anywhere,” said 38-year-old vaccine recipient, Patrick Toole.

Phase 2 of vaccine distribution brought a different crowd into the entertainment center.

“I think that it’s really important that everybody understands that we’re doing this for the good of the public,” said 22-year-old Cassidy Fischell, who also received the vaccine.

This new phase brought a younger crowd of vaccinated people since anyone aged 16 and up is now eligible to get the COVID vaccine in the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts.

“This is absolutely exciting, you know. We’ve said all along, wait your turn, your turn will come. So it’s so overwhelming to be able to offer this to everyone now,” said Dr. Chad Alvarez, senior director of retail pharmacy at Carilion.

This huge step in vaccine distribution is thanks to a significant boost in supply.

“I think that this all happened a little bit more quickly than we expected it to. For weeks and weeks, even months we were thinking, we’re never gonna have enough vaccine,” said Dr. Cynthia Morrow, director of the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts.

Now, Morrow says we do have enough. In fact, she thinks supply will start exceeding demand next week — meaning their strategy will shift from mass clinics to efforts targeted towards more vulnerable communities with lower vaccination rates.

This move will start turning the tide in the coronavirus pandemic and putting the Roanoke Valley on the fast track for a post-COVID comeback.

“I’ve already started planning my vacation for the summer. I don’t know about all of you, but I’m going to Mexico and I am just excited. I’m excited to get back to normal,” said Fischell.

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