With vaccine appointments filling up in the Blue Ridge Health District, area residents are worried about securing a slot for the required second shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.
But the health district has set aside appointments for those individuals waiting for their second dose and will call to schedule an appointment, local and state health officials said last week.
That’s the process for people who received their first shot from the Blue Ridge Health District. Those who went outside Charlottesville or the counties of Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson for their first jab need to call the health district at (434) 972-6261.
BRHD officials are encouraging residents to schedule their appointments within the district, especially since the new system for allocating doses of the vaccine is based on population.
If you’ve already secured an appointment for the second shot somewhere else, though, the district advises keeping it and arriving at the site at the designated time and date, district spokeswoman Kathryn Goodman said.
“If you through us and get vaccinated at a BRHD site, then we can track you to schedule your second-dose appointment,” she added.
The health district is scheduling appointments because the current registration system doesn’t allow staff to restrict access to certain vaccine clinics, though a new system that was piloted last week provides more flexibility.
The district received 2,950 doses this week, which are for the first shot. Supplies for the second dose are shipped straight from the federal government.
Last week, the health district opened up vaccine appointments to more people, including those 65 and older and some essential workers after requests from state and federal officials. That decision was made before officials fully understood the severity of the vaccine shortage.
For the next three weeks, the district is focusing on vaccinating frontline health care workers and the first three categories of essential workers in the 1b priority group. Those include police, fire and hazmat; corrections and homeless shelter workers and child care employers as well as teachers and staff at public and private schools.
Alongside those efforts, the University of Virginia Medical Center is working with the health district to vaccinate people who are 75 and older.
For more information, go to vdh.virginia.gov/blue-ridge/covid-19-vaccination.
Sentara Martha Jefferson is helping vaccinate healthcare workers.
Goodman said the health district isn’t cancelling the appointments of people who meet those criteria but will notify employers that appointments are available for those groups.
All vaccination plans are contingent on supply of the actual doses.
The federal government told Governors on Tuesday that it will send out 16% more doses next week. Virginia has been receiving about 100,000 to 110,000 doses per week.
Gov. Ralph Northam will discuss the state’s vaccination program during a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
The two vaccines currently approved for use require two doses either three or four weeks apart, depending on the manufacturer. Those who received the Moderna vaccine from the health district earlier this month will need their second shot next week — four weeks after their first dose.
“If you are a health system that received 10,000 doses of Pfizer, three weeks from now — which is the dosing interval for the Pfizer vaccine — you will receive another 10,000 doses of Pfizer,” said Dr. Danny Avula, the state vaccine coordinator, said of the process during a media briefing last Friday. “… So there are second doses that are coming and that are being shipped directly to health systems.”
Initially, he said there was some uncertainty about how the second doses would work and some health systems held back doses to make sure they had enough for the second round.
“And I will say that many hospitals have also quickly pivoted to reallocating,” he said. “We’ve had some great examples of where hospitals have seen needs in other parts of the state and shifted their vaccine to those needs.”
Virginia has lagged behind other states in how quickly it has vaccinated people, according to Becker’s Hospital Review. As of Tuesday evening, the state has administered half of the more than 1 million doses it received, though state officials say that’s because of data issues and doses set aside for pharmacies to vaccinate residents and staff members at long-term care facilities.
In the health district, 28,137 doses have been administered and 3,125 people are fully vaccinated, according to the state’s dashboard.