Health department asks districts to shut down their individual operations and work through the state.
RICHMOND – If you signed up for a COVID-19 vaccine through a health department in Virginia, chances are you’re still waiting for an appointment.
Over the weekend, the signup process will get a face lift. On Friday evening, the Virginia Department of Health directed local health districts to shut down their vaccination pre-registration forms.
The change came in advance of a new statewide centralized preregistration process, which launches on Tuesday. As VDH officials switch the existing waiting lists over, pre-registration will be temporarily unavailable throughout Virginia.
Anyone who previously filled out a survey or form or signed up for a waitlist through their local health district will have their information automatically imported into the new statewide system.
The change will not impact the wait time for those who already pre-registered and await a vaccination appointment. Individuals will maintain their current status in the queue.
The Commonwealth will remove duplicate registrations, clean and consolidate the data from the local health district systems. In addition, those who already received a vaccine will have their names removed from the pre-registration list, according to data logged into the Virginia Immunization Information System.
The New Statewide System
Dr. Danny Avula, state vaccine coordinator, said he’s shutting everything down this weekend just to make sure there are no issues.
“That’s simply because we want to integrate all that data,” Avula said. “We don’t want to have multiple data streams sort of adding new data while we’re merging it all into the centralized intake process.”
He also addressed concerns that people might experience over the weekend when they cannot access a vaccination registration site.
“At the end of the day, you know, the list is thousands of people long,” Avula said. “And so, you know, hitting pause for a couple of days won’t significantly impact the timeline under which somebody would get vaccinated.”
The CVS Vaccine
Meanwhile, the CVS COVID-19 vaccination rollout got off to a rocky start earlier in the week. However, the first public pharmacy-based rollout brought an additional 26,000 doses to the state. It’s a number trend that will continue next week, with another 26,000 doses slated for the rollout.
“Today was the first day that they actually started giving vaccine,” Avula said on Friday. “As I understand it, they continued to open up new appointments on a rolling basis for those who are 65 and over across the state.”
Avula called the CVS rollout “a really nice addition to the overall amount of vaccine coming into our communities.”
While the initial CVS public rollout impacts seniors over age 65, the pharmacy also continues its vaccination administration for long term care facilities, like nursing homes. Walgreens also participates in that program.
However, not all long term care facilities fall under the pharmacies’ scope. Avula said the state’s current focus is to reach those locations as well.
“We continue to really focus on the long term care facilities that fall outside of the CVS, Walgreens partnership,” Avula said.
He also noted that other priority populations include congregate settings, like the Department of Corrections.
“And then the rest is going to localities primarily based on a population model,” Avula said. “And I say primarily because there are still a few localities that have lower rates per 100,000 in terms of the number of people who’ve had vaccines administered, and so we’re trying to help support vaccination events in those areas.”
How Does The Population Model Work?
The number one question people have asked Dogwood over the last week is when vaccination centers will be set up in their area. Virginia’s 4th District House Rep. Donald McEachin echoed those concerns in a letter to the Virginia Health Department.
Unfortunately, Avula said, he doesn’t have an answer. He’s still trying to figure out how to supply the sites currently operating around the state, without adding more.
“The planning is still ongoing for those. But the reality is we don’t have enough supply to feed those sites on a regular basis,” Avula said. “We’ll evaluate our ongoing need for those based on vaccination supply. So if we get a ton of supply, a ton of increase in our supply in April or May, then it may make sense for us to open up those large-scale vaccination sites.”
On the other hand, Avula said, he has to weigh if it’s necessary spending the time, energy and resources to set up those mass vaccination sites.
“If we’ve already turned the corner on our supply demands [by then], that may not be needed,” Avula said. “We have already proven that we have tremendous capacity to just get vaccination out at large scale.”
He emphasized that due to limited supply, vaccine doses are distributed based on an area’s percentage of the total population. That means a county of 90,000 people, or 1% of Virginia’s population, would receive 1% of the total vaccine doses each week. That represents 1,050 doses per week for 90,000 people.
As of Friday, the number of state residents who received their first dose reached 972,493.
“We have seen a steady, small percentage increase each week,” Avula said.
Amie Knowles reports for Dogwood. You can reach her at [email protected]