Tysons, VA

Thousands of people in Fairfax County are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, but with many of them struggling to get appointments, the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations has stepped up to help.

The federation has started a “Neighborhood COVID-19 Navigators” project to encourage local homeowners’, civic, and community organizations to assist people who are facing challenges in getting a vaccine appointment, from technological or transportation issues to general confusion about the process.

“The Federation believes that its member citizens associations are in a good position to address this gap by providing neighbor-to-neighbor help to those who may be struggling to get vaccination appointments because of technical challenges or because they have limited transportation to vaccination sites,” Fairfax County Federation President William Barfield said in a letter to members.

The Fairfax County Health Department has been working with nonprofits, faith-based groups, and other community organizations since January on a word-of-mouth outreach program to share information about the COVID-19 vaccine campaign.

The county is providing options for people who need transportation to get to a vaccine appointment, including free rides through taxi companies and subsidized taxi vouchers for older adults, people with limited incomes, and individuals with disabilities. Several community organizations, such as the local Shepherd’s Centers, are also offering volunteer transportation to older adults.

However, the county government does not have a systematic way of identifying who needs help without the individual coming forward first, which might not happen if they don’t know where to turn for information.

Fairfax County Federation human services committee co-chair Doug Birnie realized that neighborhood groups could provide that connection between residents and the county. He brought up the idea to his committee co-chair, Mike Perel, and the Neighborhood COVID-19 Navigators initiative was born.

“Neighbors can connect neighbors with the primary County Health Department numbers on our flyer and, where necessary, offer a helping hand in negotiating the vaccination process including offering rides and personal assistance in navigating vaccination sites,” Birnie, Perel, and Barfield said in a joint statement to Tysons Reporter. “A trusted helping hand in difficult times is a valued and effective means for achieving successful outcomes.”

Along with the letter, Barfield sent out a flier with several points of contact at the Fairfax County Health Department so residents can pass along that information to neighbors who are struggling to register for a vaccine.

The flier directs people with questions or in need of transportation assistance to call the Fairfax County Health Department call center at 703-324-7404. They can also email [email protected].

County residents who are eligible to get vaccinated can register for an appointment through the call center or the health department’s website.

Image via Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations

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