Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) has expanded the eligibility for Phase 1b of the state’s vaccination effort to include people 65 and up as well as those between the ages of 16 to 64 who have high-risk medical conditions, he announced during a COVID-19 press briefing on Thursday.
“This means about half of Virginia is now eligible to receive the vaccine,” the governor said. “That’s a major logistical effort and it is not going to happen overnight. Everyone will need to be patient; it’s going to happen as fast as it can be done.”
Northam said the move was made after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sent updated guidance to states on Tuesday calling for the expansion.
Now, Phase 1b includes those two new populations, as well as people living in correctional facilities, homeless shelters, migrant labor camps and frontline essential workers such as first responders, teachers and public transit employees, among others.
However, only select parts of Virginia have started vaccinating those in 1b – 12 health districts and 45 individual localities primarily in the Southwestern and Northern regions of the state, according to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).
The majority of providers around Virginia are still working to get Phase 1a vaccinated. That includes frontline healthcare personnel, as well as long-term care facility residents and staff, who are receiving the vaccines on-site from CVS and Walgreens teams thanks to a federal partnership.
Virginians aged 65 plus and the younger people with comorbid conditions originally fell into Phase 1c, the next group to be vaccinated under of the state’s plan.
Just like in his press briefing last week, Northam said he expects the entire state to be vaccinating Phase 1b by the end of the month and once again urged every resident to get a shot when their time comes.
“The vaccines are really our way out of this pandemic,” the governor said.
To assist Virginians who may be confused by all the updates and moving pieces of the vaccination efforts, the VDH recently launched a simple online tool for determining a person’s eligibility for the vaccine and when they can get it.
All people have to do is click this link and follow the steps on the screen.
Dr. Danny Avula, who was appointed to lead Virginia’s vaccination program last week, said during the briefing that the state is looking to set up “fixed-site” mass vaccination centers throughout the Commonwealth, which will be operating six or seven days a week and eventually staffed by the Virginia national guard and contracted vaccinators.
The purpose of those sites is to help the state reach its desired goal of vaccinating 50,000 people per day in order to reach herd immunity, Avula said.
As of Friday, the highest daily total of doses administered in Virginia was 19,284 and the amount varies by each day, according to the VDH COVID vaccine dashboard.
So far, providers have distributed 943,400 doses of vaccine and administered 268,330 total shots. Additionally, 30,475 Virginians have been fully vaccinated with the two required doses. Out of all the different facilities providing vaccinations, hospitals have by far administered the most with 134,031 doses, the VDH dashboard shows.
For more information on the vaccines, Virginia’s plan or other related topics, visit: www.vdh.virginia.gov/covid-19-vaccine.
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