FAIRMONT — The Marion County Health Department is taking the COVID-19 vaccine to the streets with its mobile unit.

With vaccination rates dropping in the Mountain State, Marion County Health Department Administrator Lloyd White said he racked his brain trying to come up with a solution to get the vaccine to local residents.

“We said ‘what can do to increase our participation rates?’ and so we have a nice Mobile Unit we can use working in cooperation with the National Guard who has been a fantastic partner for us,” White said.

The mobile unit will go out into the communities and set up, which White said, will make the vaccine available for anyone who wants it.

“I think when we look at barriers to health care, transportation has always been a barrier, yet we’re not doing anything with it, so our task then is to change that,” White said.

If people wanting the vaccine cannot come to the clinics, White said, the health department will come to them.

White said the health department has been doing some homebound vaccinations and encouraged anybody if they’re truly homebound to let the health department know so they can come to that person’s home and administer the vaccine.

“They can call our office, give us their information and we will certainly reach out to them,” White said.

Friday was a test run to see how the mobile unit will function. Cars will be greeted and people can get the vaccine while sitting in their car.

“I’d like to think we are probably going to start next week if we can logistically get it worked out to just go into different communities and set up and when folks see us set up — just stop by,” White said.

He said the health department would love for people to register online at marionlhdwv.org. If residents cannot register this way, White said, he doesn’t want any barriers for people who are trying to receive the vaccine.

“We’ll do everything on site,” White said.

White said it was expected that 125 people would be vaccinated at the clinic on Friday. He said he would have loved to have a larger clinic. He said he would like to think those who have wanted the vaccine have been able to get it.

“Our efforts are to reach those who may be on the fence and make it easier for them to get so the set up here today is one that will kind of plan and have a small square operation. Then we’ll evaluate what did we do well, what did we need to improve on,” White said.

He said the health department wants the process for those who want to get the vaccine to be seamless from the point of registering to the time they drive away vaccinated.

“I think the easier that we make it hopefully the more participation we’ll receive,” White said.

Health Department Nurse Megan Payne said it’s exciting to see the mobile unit up and running.

“Unfortunately the shift has happened where there is more supply than we have demand,” Payne said.

Using the digital technology the department has on hand and the partnerships with other community groups, Payne said, the health department will be able to go out into the community and be there for people.

“I feel like unfortunately there’s a lot of misinformation or fearful [information] being put out there,” Payne said.

She said with one on one interactions, questions can be answered and myths can be dispelled.

“Let’s just have a conversation. You know, let’s have that opportunity to connect one on one and let’s see what your barriers and your fears and concerns are,” Payne said.

She said people have been receptive of what the mobile unit has achieved so far. She said once residents take the time to connect with health department staff, listening has to come first.

“God gave us two ears and one mouth so if I can listen to them and hear what their concerns are, then I can provide them with scientific factual information,” Payne said.

Reach Sarah Marino at 304-367-2549

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