Chamber Aims To Connect Businesses With Vaccination Efforts

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Mar 5, 2021
Pictured above is a joint county and NHRMC effort to vaccinate area educators. (Photo courtesy of New Hanover County)
The Wilmington Chamber of Commerce is working with the local business community to share resources and help conduct surveys around the region's vaccination efforts.

Most recently, the chamber helped connect businesses with a survey being conducted by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services to help gauge local organizations that might be interested in hosting or supporting community vaccine events. 

"For us to achieve herd immunity and to confidently turn the corner on this virus and restore lives and livelihoods, we need to have the vast majority of people vaccinated as quickly as possible. Make no mistake, we are in a race against new variants of this virus and speed is a critical element to getting things back to normal," Natalie English, president and CEO of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, said in an email Friday.

In January, one local movie theater opened as a site for vaccinations in partnership with New Hanover Regional Medical Center. Chamber officials said the survey aims to help bring more such efforts to the region. 

New Hanover County and NHRMC also partnered starting in February to begin vaccinating school staff, as well as staff at charter schools and child care facilities. The University of North Carolina Wilmington announced Thursday that it will open a campus clinic later this month, which will be operated at UNCW's Burney Center by appointment only.

UNCW officials said the university will initially serve the campus community, but it could "expand its mission in the future," stated a message from the university's chancellor.  

The NCDHHS survey is also looking to help vaccine providers know which organizations in the community want to help, stated a chamber newsletter.

"The information your organization enters in this survey will be accessible to other North Carolina organizations that are interested in hosting vaccine events. It will also be shared with vaccine providers, such as hospitals, local health departments, and community health centers," the letter states.

The Wilmington chamber overall is strongly encouraging people and businesses to get involved in vaccinations and get vaccinated when they are eligible.

"Employers have an important role to play in educating their employees, but they must understand the nuances of the audiences they’re engaging with. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach," English said.

"By receiving a vaccine, workers are helping to protect themselves, their loved ones, their coworkers and others in the community," English said. "Trust is local. We encourage business leaders to share with their team members when they’ve been vaccinated. There’s no better PSA than leading by example."

English said the chamber is encouraged by the approval of the latest Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which "could help to make access more equitable across our region."

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Feb. 27 issued an emergency use authorization for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, making it the third coronavirus vaccine to receive approval by federal regulators. Pfizer Inc. and Moderna vaccines are currently being distributed nationwide.

"The new Johnson & Johnson vaccine is effective as a single dose which works for individuals with complex work schedules or other limitations that would make securing a second dose more complicated," English said. 

Other chamber efforts have played a role in connecting members to information about the vaccines and resources to help people sign up for appointment alerts, she said.

"We’re encouraging employers to help educate their employees about all of the approved COVID-19 vaccine options and when their employees are eligible to be vaccinated based on their employment status," English said.

And to reach more members and businesses in the community, work is also being done to connect members of the chamber's African American Business Council and Latin American Business Council to the community relations teams of NHRMC, Wilmington Health and Novant Health.
In January, the chamber's African American Business Council hosted a meeting with guest speakers from the NHRMC Pharmacy Team, English said.

"We’re looking forward to more mass vaccination events," she said, "and more opportunities for businesses to help ramp up the rate of vaccination in our area."
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