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Private providers to begin vaccinating older, vulnerable patients in the Roanoke Valley

Private providers to begin vaccinating older, vulnerable patients in the Roanoke Valley

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Some independent health care providers in the Roanoke Valley will begin this week vaccinating their patients who are most vulnerable to poor outcomes from COVID-19.

Dr. Cynthia Morrow, director of the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts, said Tuesday that doctors and pharmacies are receiving 650 doses this week under the condition that they must use them all within the week and file reports showing they were used.

In addition, she said an announcement is forthcoming from Carilion Clinic.

Carilion is partnering with the health districts to give shots to 2,000 Roanoke Valley teachers on Friday during a mass clinic. Morrow said she also has clinics scheduled to reach another 2,000 essential workers.

Yet she knows the demand by tens of thousands of people in the districts who are eligible is much greater than the supply.

“It’s been a difficult week for so many of us. We recognize that a lot of people are scared and frustrated and our numbers validate that that fear and frustration is understandable, and we, too, are frustrated,” she said during her weekly press briefing. “We have neither the vaccine supply nor the infrastructure to vaccinate everybody at once.”

Providers who either are now eligible to order doses or who are receiving a share of the health district’s doses will be using their electronic health records to identify people who are most vulnerable to COVID, she said. Those patients will be getting calls and emails.

She pleaded again for patience and she asked that healthy young workers who are eligible to receive the vaccine but who do not have much contact with the public consider delaying getting their shots so that there will be more for their unhealthy coworkers or elderly neighbors.

“Knowing we do not have the ability to get vaccine to everyone who wants it is heartbreaking,” she said.

Morrow said the districts have increased their ability to run large clinics, but volunteers are always welcome. To help out, contact the Medical Reserve Corps.

However, doses are still limited. Virginia is receiving about 110,000 first doses of vaccine a week and doesn’t expect that amount to increase until late March, when either production rises for the two vaccines in use or other vaccines gain approval.

As of Tuesday, 268 people who had lived in Morrow’s health districts have died from COVID. Another 98 are in the hospital, including 69 who were admitted during the past week.

For now, the health districts do not have a way for individuals to schedule appointments. Morrow said they continue to work with employers to schedule large blocks of essential workers and to develop partnerships with providers and pharmacies to vaccinate individuals.

“We understand how anxious so many of our residents are to get vaccinated. And I am so thankful that people want to get vaccinated,” she said. “Every day we are flooded with heartbreaking stories of people who are desperate to get vaccinated. We don’t have the ability to accommodate all of these requests.”

She acknowledged that people are also frustrated about having a difficult time reaching anyone at the health department.

“We are very aware that we have not met the public’s expectation with respect to communicating with us. We have prioritized that,” she said. “There is a lot of opportunity for us to improve, and we will.”

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