The Vaccine Summary Dashboard continues to show Virginia’s significant progress in vaccinations, with more than 1.2 million doses administered. As of February 11, Virginia ranks 7th among all states for percent of the population that has received at least one dose, and 9th among all states for percent of available doses administered. More than 9 in 10 available first doses have been administered. (It is important to note that the number of doses shown as being “received” by hospitals and local health districts does not account for the doses they then redistribute to other partners such as physicians and pharmacies.)
The Commonwealth is launching a Statewide Vaccine Pre-Registration System to provide a unified and comprehensive process for people in Virginia to pre-register for the COVID-19 vaccine. As a result, the Virginia Department of Health has directed all local health districts to close their pre-registration forms and surveys at 5 p.m. on Friday, February 12, and replace them at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, February 16 with a link to the new statewide system. In the interim, existing waiting lists will be imported to the new system and pre-registration will be temporarily unavailable throughout Virginia. All individuals who have previously filled out a survey or form or signed up for a waitlist to be vaccinated through their local health district will be automatically imported into the new statewide system and do not need to pre-register again. They will maintain their current status in the queue, and will be able to search that they are in the new system starting Tuesday morning.
New tools will launch next week, including the new pre-registration website and an exponentially expanded call center. This will help ensure that callers can get timely assistance with questions and pre-registration.
Key Overview Points
Based on our population, Virginia receives approximately 129,000 doses per week from the federal government. While this is up 23% from the 105,000 per week we received for the first six weeks, the increase for each of Virginia’s 35 health districts is still relatively small. All states rely on the federal government to distribute vaccine doses by population, and the pace of incoming doses is not expected to increase again until March.
The doses Virginia received from the federal government are allocated by the Virginia Department of Health to local health districts, primarily in proportion to each district’s population. Local health districts are expected to determine the most equitable and efficient use of each allocation, leveraging any combination of their own staff and volunteers, hospitals, pharmacies, and individual providers. Additional doses help support targeted equity initiatives. Other doses reach some residents of Virginia through separate federal allocations for employees of the U.S. Department of Defense and certain other agencies; the Indian Health Service; and a federal contract with CVS and Walgreens to vaccinate residents of long-term care facilities.
All local health districts in Virginia are in Phase 1b of vaccine eligibility. This means that approximately 50% of Virginia’s population is now eligible, including frontline essential workers, people aged 65 years and older, people with high-risk medical conditions identified by the CDC, and people living in correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and migrant labor camps. Other than the healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities in Phase 1a, the Virginians in Phase 1b are at the highest risk of exposure to COVID-19 or serious illness if infected.
While local health districts are allowed flexibility in how doses are administered to eligible individuals, roughly half of the available supply should be used for people aged 65 or older. The other half should be used for frontline essential workers, people with high-risk medical conditions as identified by the CDC; and people in correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and migrant labor camps. Frontline essential workers should be prioritized in the order listed in the Phase 1b details.
There are simply not enough doses available yet for everyone who is eligible to receive them. Virginia is not likely to meet the demand for Phase 1b until March or April.
Unfortunately, it may be weeks or longer before vaccination appointments become available for those who have pre-registered.
Anyone who receives the first dose of vaccine will receive the second dose three or four weeks later as appropriate. Vaccine providers should not hold back their current first dose supply for second doses; they will receive second doses in proportion to the first doses they administer.
As part of a federal retail pharmacy program, 36 CVS Pharmacy locations in Virginia are now receiving a total of 26,000 first doses beyond Virginia’s normal allocation. Initially, the Commonwealth’s goal was for CVS to offer these appointments directly to people age 65 and older who were already on local health district waiting lists, rather than opening a new signup system for the public. Unfortunately, CVS was unable to find a way to do this within the technical limits of their appointment system. Although CVS is limiting appointments to people age 65 or older, there is no requirement that individuals have previously pre-registered with local health districts. Anyone 65 or older can check cvs.com regularly as additional appointments become available. The number of weekly doses and retail locations as part of this program are expected to increase in the coming weeks, and the Commonwealth will continue to help CVS select locations based on equity indicators.
Governor Northam has extended Executive Order 72 through February 28, which maintains the 10-person limit on social gatherings, the requirement to wear masks in public places, guidelines for businesses, and other provisions.
In a letter to school superintendents on February 5, Governor Northam indicated that all public school districts in Virginia should resume some in-person instruction options by March 15, 2021, consistent with guidance from the Department of Education. Research by the CDC shows that in-person schools have not been significant contributors to the transmission of COVID-19 when standard mitigation strategies like masks and physical distancing are used. Although vaccination lowers the risk further, vaccination is not a requirement to resume in-person instruction and is not a substitute for the mitigation strategies used successfully by in-person schools throughout the pandemic.
How Localities Can Help
Support local health departments in ensuring that registration information for eligible individuals is easily available through local websites and call centers.
Emphasize to the public that because approximately 50% of Virginia residents are now eligible to be vaccinated, the limited supply of vaccine from the federal government means it will take monthsto complete Phase 1b unless supply improves.
Closely coordinate with local health districts to plan smaller vaccination clinics now and larger ones once supply improves. Pooling venues, staff, volunteers, and other resources now will avoid delays later. Remind everyone in the community that it is more important than ever to take the same precautions as always: staying home when possible, wearing masks when out, maintaining physical distance from others, washing hands frequently, and other best practices.