Drivers passing through Vienna might notice a different kind of banner hanging over Maple Avenue near the Town Green.
In place of the usual advertisements for upcoming town events is a directive: “Protect Yourself and Our Community. When you are eligible, register for an appointment for your COVID shot.”
The banner went up last month as part of a “Vaccinate Vienna” campaign that officially launched on Tuesday (March 30). Organized by the Town of Vienna and Rotary Club of Vienna, the campaign aims to raise awareness about the ongoing, nationwide COVID-19 vaccine rollout and encourage residents to make an appointment when their turn comes.
“As Vienna’s mayor, my top priority always is our residents’ safety,” Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert said. “In an effort to mitigate this ongoing global pandemic and to reach the 75% mark to achieve herd community, I want to encourage as many people as possible to get vaccinated.”
For residents who aren’t eligible yet, the opportunity to get vaccinated may arrive sooner than anticipated. Gov. Ralph Northam announced today that all Virginia residents 16 and older will be able to register for the COVID-19 vaccine starting on April 18 — almost two weeks ahead of the state’s May 1 target date.
Fairfax County is currently permitting everyone in phase 1b to register for the vaccine. The health department has said registration will open to phase 1c essential workers in mid-April and to all adults on May 1, though Northam’s declaration suggests eligibility could potentially expand sooner.
According to its vaccine dashboard, the Fairfax County Health Department is now making appointments for people who registered on March 23. 30,052 people remain on the waitlist, just 8% of the 368,676 individuals who have registered overall.
While there’s no Vienna-specific data on how many people have been vaccinated or plan to get the vaccine, town officials and the Vienna Rotary Club hope the “Vaccinate Vienna” campaign will convince any concerned or skeptical residents that the available vaccines are safe and effective.
“I understand that there are some individuals who don’t feel comfortable getting a coronavirus vaccine, but if you do, please get vaccinated for yourself and for our community,” Colbert said.
Founded in 1965, the Rotary Club of Vienna is the town’s chapter of Rotary International, a global service organization dedicated to promoting peace, supporting education, providing clean water and sanitation, and addressing other issues.
The Vienna Rotary Club says its parent organization has “a long history” supporting successful vaccination efforts, including campaigns to eradicate polio and smallpox.
“By partnering with the town, we hope that this history will alleviate some people’s reluctance to get vaccinated,” said Vienna Rotary Club President Yasmine Bonilla, who got her first shot earlier this week.
In addition to hanging the banner over Maple Avenue, the rotary club is promoting “Vaccinate Vienna” by gathering videos of Vienna community members sharing their experiences of getting the COVID-19 vaccine. The videos will come in multiple languages and are being posted to the organization’s Facebook page.