Virginia First Lady Pamela Northam Visits COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic to Thank Front-Line Early Childhood Educators and Clinic Organizers

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George Mason University Mason and Partners Clinic, Prince William Health District, and Smart Beginnings Greater Prince William partner to vaccinate more than 1,400 people.

On February 23, First Lady Pamela Northam visited a vaccination clinic in Manassas Park to recognize the heroic efforts of early childhood educators. “Early childhood educators have truly been unsung heroes throughout this pandemic allowing other frontline workers to remain on the job. We are grateful for organizations like Smart Beginnings Greater Prince William, the Mason and Partner Clinics, and the Prince William Health District whose collaboration makes reaching this important group possible,” said Northam.

Northam meets ImagiNation
Northam issues ImagiNation staff Thompson and Bloom a First Lady Challenge coin.

At the event, Northam met Anaysha Bloom and Lacreshia Thompson lead pre-school teachers from ImagiNation Learning Center in Gainesville. “I chose to get the vaccine not only for myself and my family but to also keep my co-workers and most importantly the children in my care safe,” said Thompson.  “We are so grateful for the opportunity to receive the vaccine and for child care providers to be made a priority to receive it,” said Bloom. When the First Lady asked what was their biggest challenge, both replied “Getting [four year-olds] to social distance.”

Virginia’s early childhood educators were among those deemed essential workers in April of 2020. Many early childhood education centers, including ImagiNation Learning Center, have remained open throughout the pandemic, providing continuity of care and allowing families who rely on these providers to return to work. Early childhood educators are part of Phase 1b for Virginia’s COVID-19 Vaccination plan– however many in this population were not aware they were eligible for a vaccine.

To help raise awareness and increase vaccination rates in Greater Prince William, Mason and Partner (MAP) Clinics, Smart Beginnings Greater Prince William (SBGPW), and the Prince William Health District (PWHD) partnered to schedule more than 1,400 appointments with early childhood educators over the course of seven days. On the day of the First Lady’s visit, more than 500 first doses and 150 second doses were administered.

“In just one week, we have contacted more than 350 early childhood education centers to let them know that they fall into Phase 1b and are eligible for the COVID vaccine.  Organizing these clinics for those who educate our youngest children has been the most rewarding work I’ve done since COVID began. Having our front-line workers vaccinated is a critical first step in more people resuming in-person activities,” said Kathy Channell, Chairperson, Smart Beginnings Greater Prince William. Channell and her teammates Debi Stepien, Vice Chair, Gina Parr, Secretary and Tawnya Soltis, Executive Director, are all volunteers and helped make the hundreds of phone calls required to pull-off this massive event.

HAP and Nursing Students at Clinic
School of Nursing and Health Administration and Policy students pictured here play a critical role in staffing the clinics and gain valuable experience at the same time.

To date, the MAP Clinics have delivered more than 2,916 vaccines to early childhood educators, so were a natural partner for SMBGPW. “The community has really joined together to help this vital and often vulnerable population get vaccinated,” said Dr. Becki Sutter, co-director of the MAP Clinics and faculty at George Mason University’s College of Health and Human Services. “The MAP Clinics are proud to partner with the PW Health District and Smart Beginnings Greater Prince William to raise awareness among early education centers and immunize nearly 3,000 people through these vaccination events over four weeks.”

Group photo at COVID-19 vaccination clinic with Northam
Collaborators from ImagiNation, Mason, Mason and Partners Clinics, Prince William Health District, and Smartbeginnings Greater Prince William pose with First Lady Northam.

Collaborations such as this have helped the Prince William Health Department expand its vaccination program and to reach individuals who may be unaware that they are eligible or are hesitant to be immunized. “PWHD is building creative solutions and working with our community partners to vaccinate as many eligible residents as quickly as possible. This collaboration has helped engage and inform early childhood educators and we look forward to more events like this one,” said District Director for PWHD, Dr. Allison Ansher.

Mason faculty, staff, and alumni are integral to the success of the vaccination events as are CHHS students from across disciplines. Health Administration and Policy students manage health records and senior nursing students administer vaccines.

The City of Manassas Park has supported on-going vaccination events by providing space and logistical support. “We’re proud to provide with much-needed space and parking so the vaccination clinics can achieve their weekly vaccination goal,” said Loren Luck, marketing and communications manager for Manassas Park.

About the Mason and Partners (MAP) Clinics
George Mason University's Mason and Partners (MAP) Clinics are free clinics that serve low-income, uninsured, and refugee communities within Prince William and Fairfax counties in Northern Virginia. Faculty and staff at the MAP Clinics have partnered with the Prince William Health District to vaccinate eligible residents through on-going clinics. The Clinics have vaccinated thousands of individuals to date and this number continues to grow. Information about vaccine eligibility and scheduling can be found at https://vaccinate.virginia.gov/.

The MAP Clinics are interprofessional clinics located in Manassas, Springfield, and Culmore. The Clinics provide health care, school physicals, screenings, and mental health services for vulnerable populations located in low income and medically underserved areas (MUA). The ambulatory clinics provide to the community referrals, resources, and case management for medical home placement; wellness and integrated care workshops; and group care for chronic disease management and education.

About Smart Beginnings Greater Prince William (SBGPW)
Smart Beginnings Greater Prince William (SBGPW), is a program under the PWCS Education Foundation SPARK (the 501c3). SBGPW serves the City of Manassas, the City of Manassas Park, and Prince William communities as an organization solely focused on birth through five-year old’s in preparing them for a successful start to kindergarten and life.

As part of a statewide network of Smart Beginnings, SBGPW serves with assistance and guidance from Virginia Early Childhood Foundation (VECF). This approach allows local efforts to be individualized, while working in harmony with other communities to achieve results throughout Virginia. 

About the Prince William Health District
The Prince William Health District (PWHD) operates multiple programs to protect and improve the health and well-being of its residents. Services provided include:  immunizations; environmental health services, including restaurant and pool inspections; family planning services; confidential diagnosis, treatment, and counseling for sexually transmitted diseases; tuberculin testing and diagnostic chest x-rays; confidential HIV testing and early intervention services; nutritional education and food vouchers for women, infants, and children (WIC) clients; processing of birth and death certificates.