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Roanoke region to open vaccination to everyone on Monday
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Roanoke region to open vaccination to everyone on Monday

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Anyone who wants to be vaccinated can be vaccinated starting Monday in the Roanoke region.

The Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts on Friday announced that appointments were not filling as quickly for its mass COVID-19 vaccination clinics as they had been — a signal to health officials that they should begin to invite everyone who has preregistered through vaccinate.virginia.gov.

Dr. Danny Avula, who is coordinating Virginia’s vaccination campaign, said during a Friday media briefing that some health districts will be able to give shots to everyone before the April 18 target date set for statewide expansion to the general population.

He said public health officials will still use the preregistration list to fill clinics.

“As some districts are opening up, they want to make sure they are focusing on their populations and that we don’t have these issues of vaccine tourism where people are coming from other parts of the state to take advantage of some of this more open access,” Avula said.

While local health districts and their partners have more control over who is invited to clinics, many pharmacies have their own registration systems that permit people in other regions to make appointments elsewhere and travel to where the doses are.

The state has relied mostly on a population-based allocation system for the health districts, but that could change once everyone is eligible. Avula said doses will follow demand.

“Phase 1 was really about individual risk. We know the 65 and older population, we know the 16 to 64 population with underlying conditions, they have higher individual risks of hospitalization and death,” he said. “Phase 2 is really about herd immunity. So the more people we can get vaccinated faster, that’s going to be good for everybody.”

The Roanoke area had just moved into Phase 1c on Friday and used 5,000 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine to satisfy demand in that group. Workers included in this phase were of smaller numbers than in previous phases, which took in all health care employees, emergency workers and teachers.

Also, outreach efforts — which included setting up a local hotline, 540-613-6597 — have helped provide appointments for older residents and others who had trouble with online systems. Anyone in Phase 1a, b or c who has yet to receive an email invitation or phone call to set an appointment should call the hotline Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. or email RCAHDCovidResponse@vdh.virginia.gov.

The New River Valley, with two universities, has a larger proportion of its population who meet Phase 1c eligibility. Avula said extra doses are being sent to health districts with colleges and universities so that they can quickly move through this phase.

Virginia is still expecting to receive 124,000 doses of J&J next week, and retail pharmacies will get 100,000 doses under a separate federal allocation. Avula said the state has placed orders for 125,000 weekly doses but it is unclear whether future allocations will be impacted by the production error discovered this week at one of J&J’s contracted suppliers in Baltimore.

“They are saying this won’t impact their targets for the month of April, but we’ll just have to wait and see,” he said.

None of the mis-manufactured doses were shipped. Avula said this should give people confidence that safety processes are being followed.

Virginia is also getting 112,000 first does of the Pfizer vaccine and 86,000 first doses of Moderna’s vaccine this week.

Additional doses go directly to pharmacies and account for one-third of the vaccine distributed in the state.

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