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Wait is almost over for older adults wanting COVID-19 vaccinations, Roanoke-area health director says

Wait is almost over for older adults wanting COVID-19 vaccinations, Roanoke-area health director says

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The supply of COVID-19 vaccines into the Roanoke Valley is increasing so much that the public health director expects that everyone 65 and older who wants to be vaccinated will have appointments within two weeks.

“Let’s say you are 65 and you preregistered in January and you still haven’t heard from us, there is a very, very, very high probability that you are going to hear from us in the next week,” Dr. Cynthia Morrow, director of the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts, said during her weekly media briefing Tuesday. “I’m pretty confident that we are going to be able to reach our population above the age of 65 in the next week, two weeks.”

The district is expecting 8,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved one-dose vaccine this week.

She urged everyone in phase 1b, which includes older adults and those under 65 with underlying medical conditions, to preregister through vaccinate.virginia.gov. She said they also are moving down the priority list of essential workers in this phase and are now vaccinating grocery store workers and others who fell below police, firefighters and teachers on the priority list.

Anyone who has preregistered since the state launched vaccinate.virginia.gov would have been asked a series of questions about their health and occupation that would allow for sorting of lists to find eligible workers and people with underlying health issues.

Those who preregistered earlier should check their profiles and add this information. If the online system does not allow for edits, call 877-829-4682.

Morrow also encouraged essential workers in 1c to preregister because there will be some overlap of the phases.

When asked when 1c might begin, she said, “Sooner than I thought it would, but I don’t know exactly when.”

Phase 1c includes those who work in energy, water and waste removal, construction, food service, transportation, higher education, finance, information technology, media and legal services, as well as public safety engineers and other public health workers.

Vaccine supplies have continued to increase in recent weeks. Last week, area pharmacies received their own doses through the federal pharmacy partnership program, bringing in another 3,700 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna two-shot series to the districts. Walmart worked with the health districts to reach essential workers, she said.

Others have agreed to work off the preregistration lists, though CVS maintains its own registration system.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will bring another 8,000 weekly doses to the district’s 3,000-plus allotment. Morrow said she expects to make an announcement with Carilion Clinic as soon as Wednesday as to how these will be given out.

She said some people will prefer this vaccine because it is one shot, and others will want one of the other two, which logged higher rates of keeping serious illness at bay during clinical trials. All are considered safe and effective at keeping people from being hospitalized or dying from COVID.

Morrow said she would welcome other health care workers who want to help out at mass vaccination clinics. She also asking local health care providers to sign forms with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention if they have yet to do so in order to receive doses for their patients.

“Our vaccine supply is increasing and this is wonderful news for our community,” she said.

But that news is tempered by the continued transmission of the virus, she said. Though the rate of new cases is decreasing, it is not falling at the same pace as it had been during the last few weeks.

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