The number of COVID-19 doses is expected to double this week in the Roanoke area as retail pharmacies begin to receive their own shipments from the federal government.
“When I got the call on Saturday evening that we would be getting 3,700 more doses in our community through our retail pharmacies, I was very surprised by that in a good way,” Dr. Cynthia Morrow, director of the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts, said Tuesday during her weekly media briefing.
The health district has been receiving 3,150 weekly doses from Virginia’s allocation, although that number, too, could rise soon. The state learned late last week that its federal allotment is increasing from about 130,000 weekly doses to 161,000 doses.
Every part of Virginia is now in Phase 2, which means anyone 16 or older is eligible for COV…
Morrow said the pharmacies will be working off the list of people 65 and older who have preregistered for the vaccine.
“The state call center is going to be helping, as a large part of this is to try to get people who do not have access to the internet,” she said.
Pharmacies also have tools to reach out to customers who are eligible. CVS is still running a separate registration system, but the federal government last week announced it would send additional doses to other chains and independent drug stores.
Everyone who wants to be vaccinated needs to preregister either through vaccinate.virginia.gov or by calling 877-829-4682.
“The ultimate goal is for every vaccinator program — whether retail pharmacies, the health departments or primary care providers — to use information gathered from the list. But it is still a work in progress,” Morrow said.
Vaccinators can the use the preregistration list to target the oldest, most vulnerable people first. Unfortunately, the way to reach them — primarily through email invitations — allows anyone and everyone to share the links and for people who are not eligible under Phase 1b to grab appointments.
“This is not a situation where the vaccine is coming out of the air. If you take the link and send it to someone who is not at high risk for having COVID-related hospitalizations or death, you are taking that vaccine from someone who is at high risk,” Morrow said. “I use the term unethical and I don’t use that lightly. It is not right for someone to take the link and share it with other people. These links are meant for a target population that is older than 65.”
The state has asked the company that developed the registration system to fix flaws in the system — the ability to share links, and to allow ineligible people to schedule appointments — by the end of the month.
“It’s really hard when we get an email from someone saying, ‘I’m 80 years old and I just found out my 40-year-old neighbor got the link,’” Morrow said. “It’s heartbreaking and it’s wrong. If you get a link, it is for your use only.”
Morrow said that its partner Carilion Clinic is using a computer registration system to fill the clinics for older residents. The emails are now carrying a caution telling people that if they share the link, they might jeopardize their own spot.
“I’ve also told Carilion they have my permission as the health director to cancel any appointment for people who are under the age of 65, if it’s for our 65-and-over clinic,” she said.
Morrow was joined Tuesday by Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea; City Manager Bob Cowell; Nathaniel Bishop, Carilion’s chief officer of diversity, equity and inclusion; and Shirley Holland, Carilion’s vice president of community development, to talk about joint efforts to make sure vaccination efforts are reaching older African American and Spanish-speaking members of the community who have technology, transportation or other barriers that make it difficult for them to register for and attend large clinics.
Both the city and Carilion have been reaching out to community and neighborhood leaders to find people with the greatest challenges to registering who are also those most at risk of being hospitalized or dying from COVID.