PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) – Health leaders in Petersburg want to bring up the city’s COVID-19 vaccination rate, they met with Governor Glenn Youngkin on Tuesday afternoon to find out how to make it happen.
“We are here today to figure out a way to grow the city of Petersburg and not leave anyone behind,” Mayor Sam Parham said during Tuesday City Hall.
Dozens of community and city leaders met with Youngkin at the Petersburg Public Library to talk about strategy.
According to the Virginia Department of Health, 71% of the population is fully vaccinated. In the city of Petersburg, that figure is closer to 59%.
Younkgin opened the floor for discussion and asked leaders what they have heard in the community about the vaccination dust.
“Some of the things we’ve heard – it really has to do with what’s in the vaccine, and the long-term effects of what the vaccine could do,” said Petersburg Schools Superintendent Dr. Maria Pitre-Martin.
Many executives also expressed concern about the lack of reliable sources of information.
“One of the main themes was just the lack of a trusted person to get questions answered,” Youngkin told reporters.
“The most important thing is to give people a chance to take a phone call or text or get in touch with someone that we actually put into the community.”
Youngkin doubled his stance on not supporting a vaccine mandate, saying commitment is key.
“If people have decided they do not want to get the vaccine, it does not change their mind to get them to get it,” he said. “And so it’s really important to embrace and engage.”
Pitre-Martin says health inequalities existed before the pandemic, and leaders need to address these issues first.
“When the pandemic hit, I think we already had problems with people seeking medical intervention as a need. In my opinion, even in the post-pandemic, we need to address it. If that perception is still there, we will not be able to tackle it fully, ”she said.
Youngkin told reporters the next step is to reach out to local health workers and pharmacists to see how they can help.