County health department plans to keep using their own system, rather than connect to the state version.
FAIRFAX CO. — As of Friday, health districts in Virginia shut down their vaccine registration systems, planning to switch to the state version when it launches next week. That is, all but one. Fairfax County said no thanks.
On Friday, Fairfax County’s health district announced they plan to continue using their own registration system. Deputy Director of Public Affairs Jeremy Lasich said they’re doing this to protect the thousands of people on their waiting list.
“We have more than 100,000 people on our waitlist currently. And that’s a big number,” said Lasich. “We’re confident in our system and we want to make sure, for continuity in our operations, that these people maintain their spot on our waitlist.”
And while Lasich can’t speak on the VDH’s system, he said that Fairfax has been using its site since January and they’re excited for residents to finally get their vaccines.
“We’ve been using our system for more than a month and we’ve gone through our learning curve,” said Lasich. “We know what our system can handle. And we’ve been communicating with our community about the vaccine on a regular basis.”
How Their System Works
So, here’s how Fairfax County’s system works. It’s a fairly simple process. First, they’ll ask you about your eligibility. If you’re eligible, you’ll register either online or over the phone. After you register, you’ll get an appointment scheduler through your email. After you schedule your appointment, then all you have to do is wait to be vaccinated.
They also have a call center set up for those who have questions but don’t have reliable internet access. Spanish translators are also available over the phone. And for those who want to follow along online, the district built its own vaccine dashboard.
And while their system is not connected to the state’s, they’re still in constant collaboration with VDH in terms of vaccines.
“We still work with the VDH all the time. That’s where we get our supplies,” he said. “We have to coordinate directly with them to get our vaccines from them on a regular basis.” Plus, they will still be giving the department all of their data. That way the VDH will still be able to keep track of how many vaccines Fairfax Count has administered.
Currently, if you meet the following criteria, then you’re eligible for a vaccine in Fairfax County:
- A Fairfax County Health District resident who’s 65 years or older
- A Fairfax County Health District between the ages of 16 to 64 with a high risk medical condition or disability illness
- A healthcare worker who lives or works in the Fairfax Health District
- A childcare worker, K-12 teacher or staff who lives or works in the Fairfax Health District
Right now, there are more than 108,000 people are on their waiting list. So Lasich recommends signing up sooner rather than later.
“If someone were to sign up today, we expect that they wouldn’t get vaccinated until months from now based on our current vaccine supply,” he said.
What’s Going on With the State System?
So with Fairfax County doing its own thing, what does that mean for the rest of Virginia? Well, everyone else has to register with the state’s sign up program. And here’s how it works. Once you go to the VDH’s website, you’ll be able to sign up for a vaccine. But, only if you’re eligible.
If you’re in Category A or meet these requirements, you can get vaccinated:
- Healthcare Personnel
- Long-Term Care Residents
On their website, the VDH said that they’re not likely to have enough vaccines for anyone who falls in Category B until March or April. This includes:
- Frontline essential workers,
- Persons Aged 65 years and Older,
- People Living in correctional Facilities, Homeless Shelters and Migrant Labor Camps,
- Persons Aged 16-64 years with a high-risk medical condition or disability that increases their risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
But while these supplies are limited, they’re still eligible.
All Virginians will fill out the same standard form, asking questions about which priority group they belong to. Like the Fairfax system, the new program will also include a statewide call center, with 750 callers speaking English and Spanish. There will also be a third party access to translators in over 100 languages.
This ,according to the VDH, will help people lacking internet access and would have trouble making an appointment online.
After you sign up, you’ll get weekly reminders about your place in line. You can also check your status at any time.
The state’s new system will be up and running by Feb. 16. For now, if you’ve already registered for a vaccine in your county, you shouldn’t have to do anything to secure a spot in this new system. If you’re eligible and you haven’t signed up yet, you have to do it on the VDH’s website.
How Do I Sign Up?
If you’re a Fairfax County resident interested in the COVID vaccine, you can sign up on the county’s website. Everyone else can sign up on the VDH’s website. Starting on Feb. 16, you can click on your county’s respective link and it will take you to the sign up portal.
Need to use their call center? You can call Fairfax’s at 703-724-7404.
For those who aren’t eligible yet, Lasich asks for your patience and tells you to keep your eyes peeled for when the state announces it’s new eligibility requirements.
“Once the state announces that those new groups are eligible, we’ll communicate that to Fairfax County residents,” he said.
Arianna Coghill is a content producer with Dogwood. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.