A news release Thursday afternoon from the Fauquier Free Clinic, which also serves Rappahannock County, sees light at the end of a long tunnel: “After this horrible year, it feels so good to see that we’re moving forward and taking steps to help end this and protect our patients.”
With a small but growing part of the U.S. population vaccinated against infection with the virus that causes COVID-19, the staff at Fauquier Free Clinic (FFC) expresses hope that despite these past 12 months of hardship, the world is turning a corner.
“Healthcare providers and those leading the local community response to COVID-19 are taking the right steps forward to help end this pandemic and improve our community’s safety and well-being,” says Rob Marino, FFC director.
Rob shares that FFC patients were hit especially hard by COVID-19. The clinic has always advocated for its patients, but FCC’s advocacy took on new meaning and vigor during the pandemic.
“Our patients tend to have jobs where working from home is not an option—they have to be there in person,” says Rob. “There are so many families that can’t afford to miss work. So when they got sick or were forced into quarantine, it was a terrible hardship.”
Now with the arrival of three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the U.S., healthcare providers are excited to be able to offer preventive remedies rather than just test for the virus.
The rollout of an effective vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel that healthcare professionals, front-line workers, and community members have been waiting for. FFC’s medical team immediately compiled a list of around 300 patients considered to be highest-risk for the virus, and reached out to each one to help them register and make an appointment.
“Vaccine clinic days felt like birthday parties,” says Rob. “Our clinic volunteers wanted to come in early and stay late to help administer the first round of vaccines, and every single patient has showed up for their appointment.”
Registered nurse Linda Bueno has been instrumental in patient outreach and administration of vaccine shots to high-risk populations. She has also administered vaccines at various community vaccination sites as a Virginia Medical Reserve Corps member.
“It has been amazing to witness the restoration of optimism and feelings of safety first-hand,” says Linda. “After this horrible year, it feels so good to see that we’re moving forward and taking steps to help end this and protect our patients.”
Oftentimes, matters of national health disproportionately affect underprivileged segments of communities. FFC has worked to keep patients informed about how to guard their health, provide instruction and guidance for how to register for the vaccine, and give them access to resources to make informed decisions. Staff and volunteers make personal calls to answer questions, listen to concerns, and help overcome misunderstandings.
“It’s being honest about the fact that you might have a sore arm, and you may feel some flu-like symptoms, especially with the second shot, but that’s good!” says Linda. “That’s your body’s immune system ramping up.”
When health officials allocate a new round of vaccine doses to the clinic, the team has to work quickly.
“We have to rush to get all these moving parts working—scheduling patients and staffing the right people,” says Rob. “But it comes together seamlessly. When we get a call, everyone steps up and says, ‘Tell me what time to be there.’ And we pull it together. It’s a planning challenge since things change so fast, but we stay flexible.”
While FFC is receiving vaccine doses, supplies are still limited. Fortunately, all versions of the vaccine are safe and have exhibited positive outcomes. This means that the best vaccine is whichever one you can get first.
To register for the COVID-19 vaccine, find out which phase you’re eligible for, or to check your registration status, please visit: https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/covid-19-vaccine/.