Vaccine rollout underway

The Virginia Department of Health says people 65 and older; 16 to 64 with an underlying condition; and employers with essential workers can sign up now to be contacted about the COVID-19 vaccine.

People and employers in these groups can go to vdh.virginia.gov/blue-ridge/covid-19-vaccination or call 434-972-6261 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Contacting the health department does not mean instant vaccine eligibility. It only puts your name on a list so you can be reached when enough vaccine is available.  

Virginia entered Phase 1B of vaccination this month, targeting frontline essential workers such as those who are in child care or manufacturing. The initial phase 1A focused on health care workers. Phase 1B was initially limited to essential workers and people 75 or older, but on Jan. 13 Governor Ralph Northam said those 65 and older and people 16 to 64 with underlying conditions would also be eligible.

Danny Avula, who heads the Richmond Health District and is coordinating the statewide rollout of the vaccine, said during a media call on Jan. 16 that the state has distributed 943,000 vaccine doses to health districts, hospitals, pharmacies and other facilities. But only 295,000 doses had been administered. 

Some of the discrepancy, he said, is accounted for by pharmacies and hospitals that have not yet reported data to the state as they provide doses to patients. But speaking on National Public Radio last week, Northam indicated that another problem is that there aren’t enough vaccinators available. He said he was looking forward to using the National Guard to help ramp up vaccine activity after the presidential inauguration.

Avula said the federal government had sent mixed messages about the vaccine supply going forward. The state opened Phase 1B to people 65 and older with the understanding that the feds would expand the supply quickly. Dr. Daniel Carey, the state secretary of health and human resources, predicted that an increase in the weekly flow of vaccine to states won’t happen until early March.

Avula said the state’s goal is to distribute 50,000 doses a day, “which is what we need for herd immunity,” but the current pace is 100,000 doses per week. In addition, the federal government is distributing a dedicated supply of second doses for people who already received the first one, Avula said. 

 

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