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25,000 people on Roanoke Valley waitlist for health districts' vaccines; CVS to have some doses

25,000 people on Roanoke Valley waitlist for health districts' vaccines; CVS to have some doses

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Every last drop of COVID-19 vaccine in the Roanoke Valley was gone this weekend, leaving the director of the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts to hope that Sunday’s snowfall wouldn’t delay the next shipments.

Dr. Cynthia Morrow said during her media briefing Tuesday that the local health districts and their partner, Carilion Clinic, used not only all of their weekly supply of first doses but converted all of their second doses to first doses.

This is a temporary scheme by the Virginia Department of Health to use all available doses immediately, instead of storing some until they are supposed to be injected — weeks from now — into the arms of people who received the corresponding first doses. Dr. Danny Avula, who heads the state’s vaccination efforts, said it is a better way to manage inventory to get as many Virginians inoculated as quickly as possible until vaccine supplies increase.

Virginia expects the federal government to ship about 120,000 new doses each week. The state is then apportioning them to the health districts based on their share of Virginia’s population.

“Moving forward, the 3,150 doses we get per week for the Roanoke and Alleghany Health Districts will be all the vaccine that is available,” Morrow said.

She had been holding back part of each week’s shipment to make sure she’d have enough to start the first mass vaccination clinic of the following week.

“I will tell you as a local health director, and I think this is important for our community to understand, this puts us in a precarious and anxiety-producing situation, because if there is any delay in that just-in-time [delivery], we are going to have to cancel a clinic,” she said.

The doses arrived in time for this week’s clinic, despite the snow. As long as they continue to do so, the health districts will host three weekly clinics. Tuesdays and Thursday are reserved for health care workers, police, firefighters and teachers, with a few older residents sprinkled into open appointments. Wednesdays are reserved for residents 65 and older.

“Based on the waiting list we have, we have over 25,000 people registered on that list, so it’s going to take time. And every day we get more and more registrations, so it’s going to take a significant time to get through that list,” she said.

Morrow said she is also committed to making sure that people receive their second doses on time.

People continue to be frustrated that they cannot reach the local health departments directly, that they register through one system or another and can’t get an appointment or a confirmation notice, or that they get an email invitation to sign up for a clinic and find all the appointments are gone.

Morrow said she and her staff are just as frustrated but they keep trying to work with the systems that they have available. Top state health officials have said a central system is coming but have not said when.

In addition to the state’s allocation, doses are shipped to CVS and Walgreens under a federal pharmacy partnership to vaccinate long-term care residents and the people who care for them.

CVS on Tuesday announced that it would receive 26,000 additional doses from the federal program for 28 of its stores in Virginia. Stores in Roanoke, Blacksburg and Bedford will receive some doses that they will begin to give out on Feb. 11.

Appointments are required. And people must be included in Phase 1a or Phase 1b of Virginia’s eligibility. For individuals, this means 65 and older, or younger with a medical condition that puts them at risk of a poor outcome from the virus. CVS will book appointments starting Feb. 9 through CVS.com or through the company’s app. Those without online access can call 800-746-7287.

Meanwhile, Morrow said that people should make sure that they have pre-registered for the health districts’ vaccine through the local health department’s survey. An earlier survey through the state’s website was intended to help people understand in which phase they would become eligible.

Morrow said they are able now to sort through the pre-registrations and target email invitations to the oldest people and to those who live in places where the disease has taken a greater toll. She said they will also be able to tell if certain groups are underrepresented in the registration system so that they can increase efforts to reach the people most at risk of poor outcomes.

She asked people not to share their email invitations with others, as the health department is attempting to be strategic with the distribution and sharing the email promotes line-jumping.

The vaccination clinics are open only to those with appointments. If there are extra doses due to no-shows, people already in the queue will receive them.

“We do not want people hanging out thinking they are going to get the vaccine,” she said.

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