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Hollywood Casino in Charles Town will be the site of large-scale regional vaccination clinics starting next week.

CHARLES TOWN – Starting Tuesday, the WVU Medicine hospital system will begin operating regional, drive-through coronavirus vaccination clinics in the parking deck at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races. The clinics are projected to administer up to 5,000 immunizations a day, serving 300 to 400 people per hour.

The clinics are expected to take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. over four to six weeks, according to WVU Medicine officials. To be held in a currently unused parking deck at the casino, the clinics will be designed to provide immunizations to residents throughout the Eastern Panhandle, WVU Medicine officials announced.

They will take place in conjunction with the Jefferson County and Berkeley County health departments.

“This is a huge endeavor that will ultimately improve access for area residents to the COVID-19 vaccine,” Dr. Terrence Reidy, Jefferson’s top medical officer said in a statement.

Reidy said the larger regional clinics will replace smaller community clinics taking place in Jefferson and Berkeley counties, including vaccinations that have been administering about 1,300 shots a week at the Ranson Civic Center.

On Monday, Jim Hoyer, director of the statewide vaccination distribution, said the organizations and locations where people can receive an immunization shot will continue to grow. “We are working aggressively with retailers, manufacturers, churches and others to ensure that we build additional capacity to get into communities and get as many people as possible vaccinated,” he said.

During a COVID public press briefing online, Gov. Jim Justice said the United Kingdom variant along with another discovered in California has given state health officials a new sense of urgency in getting West Virginians vaccinated. “If, in fact, this variant is attacking the younger folks, as the COVID-19 did to our older folks [at the outset of the pandemic], then you’ve got to get vaccinated, that’s just all there is to it,” the governor said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 53 COVID cases have been identified in West Virginia. The Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are believed so far to be effective against the new varients.

Viruses constantly change through ongoing mutations according to the CDC. Sometimes new variants emerge and disappear, the medical research agency says. Other times, new variants persist after they after they emerge.

All West Virginia residents age 16 and older are eligible to receive the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine at the regional clinics. Appointments will be required for first-time vaccinations at the regional clinics, and details on how to register for an appointment will be available on the Jefferson County health department’s website at www.jchdwv.org.

People scheduled for second booster vaccines after this week will be contacted and their appointments will be rescheduled, WVU Medicine officials reported.

Appointments for Jefferson County will be made over a WVU Medicine scheduling system, allowing health officials to phase out the statewide Everbridge registration system. Problems in efficiently sharing information with local health departments has dogged the statewide system since it was introduced in January. Those information problems have been complicated by expanding federal distributions of vaccines that allow for independent immunizations taking place at various pharmacies across the state.

On Tuesday, more than 882,000 first and second doses of vaccinations had been administered across West Virginia. More than 18,300 first and second doses had been administered in Jefferson County.

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