A member of medical staff holds a phial of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine jab at Guy's Hospital at the start of the largest ever immunisation programme in the UK's history on December 8, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Victoria Jones - Pool / Getty Images) Pfizer's Vaccine Held Up
A member of medical staff holds a phial of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine jab at Guy's Hospital at the start of the largest ever immunisation programme in the UK's history on December 8, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Victoria Jones - Pool / Getty Images)

Sister health districts partnered to create an online interest form to streamline COVID-19 vaccine doses.

RICHMOND – If you’re a healthcare worker or resident in a long-term care facility, chances are you’ve had an opportunity to accept or decline the COVID-19 vaccine. If not, you’ll probably make that choice in the coming weeks.

On Dec. 3, the Pew Research Center published findings, which stated that 60% of Americans said they would definitely or probably get a vaccine for the coronavirus if available that day, up from 51% in September.

The research center found that 39% said they definitely or probably would not get a coronavirus vaccine, though about half of the group – 18% of U.S. adults – expressed that they might alter their stance once the vaccines started and more information became available.

A study published by McKinsey and Company on Dec. 18 suggested a larger divide. Out of 300 million Americans, 100 million planned to get the vaccine, while 200 million expressed indecision.

To reach immunity, the study expressed that the country needed a 70% vaccine adoption rate among Americans 12 and older. That meant 195 million of 280 million eligible Americans would need the vaccine.

Health departments across the nation are doing their part to increase not only the trust in the vaccine, but also the interest.

Healthcare First

In Virginia, healthcare workers and residents in long-term care facilities had the first priority for getting the vaccine, a group called Phase 1a.

For the past three weeks, vaccines raced across Virginia.

Catherine “Cat” Long, the public information officer for the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts, noted that the area’s vaccination count rises daily.

On Tuesday, 14,300 eligible people received the shot. As of Wednesday afternoon, that number increased to 14,800 people.

While impressive, there’s still a ways to go before all of the area’s 1a residents will receive – or have he opportunity to get – the vaccine. 

“We estimate there are about 50,000 to 60,000 people in Richmond City and Henrico County that qualify,” Long said.

Moving the process along, the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts recently created an online interest form to help all eligible medical providers receive the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible.

A healthcare employer may fill out the form on behalf of their staff. Individuals who meet the qualifications may also fill out their own form.

Eligible healthcare providers who complete the form receive a notification when there is a COVID-19 vaccine appointment available to them. Patients will enroll in the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS), the online appointment scheduling tool created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Once in the system, an individual can register for one of the districts’ large-scale vaccination events. They will take place throughout Richmond City and Henrico County.

RELATED: Northam Plans to Speed Up Vaccine Distribution

The Next Vaccine Group

The Richmond and Henrico Health Districts anticipate moving into Phase 1b of vaccine distribution in February. Phase 1b includes any person over the age of 75 and other frontline essential workers beyond the healthcare field including grocery store employees, police officers, firefighters, public transit workers, mail carriers, those in various food and agriculture positions and teachers and support staff who work in the education sector.

1b vaccinations start up in just a few weeks. That does not mean vaccines will reach all 1a individuals by the time the first 1b person receives their shot.

“There’s still work to be done,” Long said. “We will likely not have all of 1a vaccinated before moving into 1b, but that doesn’t mean that people in 1a can’t get vaccinated when 1b starts.”

According to guidance by the CDC in their Phased Allocation of COVID-19 Vaccines presentation, slide 39 allows for overlap in the first four phases.

“We are moving as quickly as possible to get as many people vaccinated as possible,” Long said. “Richmond and Henrico Health Districts have used 3,580 of our current supply of 3,600 COVID-19 vaccines.”

When they receive the green light from the VDH, Long said her health districts will distribute the vaccine to 1b.

Third in Line

At a press conference on Wednesday, Gov. Ralph Northam also spoke about those included in Phase 1c.

He noted that the third group consists of essential workers. Notham designated that group as people who work in transportation, food service, construction, energy and more. The group also includes everyone aged 65 and over.

Long noted that the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices offers guidelines on those vaccinated first, second, third and onward. Then, each state can adopt those guidelines, adjust them or do something different.

“As of right now, VDH has released guidance for 1a,” Long said. “We are expecting more guidance to be released in the future.”

Amie Knowles reports for Dogwood. You can reach her at amie@couriernewsroom.com