CHRISTIANSBURG — On Monday, Jan. 11, the Virginia Department of Health’s New River Health District began providing COVID-19 vaccines — by pre-registration and appointment only — to additional groups of recipients identified as “Phase 1b.”
These personnel include police, fire and hazmat response personnel, those living and working in correctional facilities, homeless shelters and migrant labor camps, childcare/K-12 teachers and staff, food and agriculture workers, manufacturers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, mail carriers (USPS and private) and anyone age 75 or over.
“As we approach the completion of vaccination programs for Phase 1a, we are beginning immediately to vaccinate those Phase 1b essential workers, those in other residential facilities and older Virginians who face greater risk of illness,” said Dr. Noelle Bissell, the health district’ director. “We are committed to using every available vaccine as quickly as possible.”
Pre-registration and appointments are required, and proof of qualification for Phase 1b is also required. Residents should not simply show up at a clinic. Without pre-registration, an appointment and proof of qualification, vaccinations will not be given.
Many Phase 1b recipients will get their vaccine through their workplace clinic or residential clinic and do not need to seek vaccine independently. Smaller and independent businesses, individuals 75 years old and up and anyone not affiliated with a workplace clinic or residential clinic may pre-register online at www.NRVRoadtoWellness.com or call 540-267-8240 to complete the pre-registration process and provide contact information.
Family members, caregivers and others may register on behalf of other persons. Those in Phase1c and the general public should not call or go online to pre-register at this time as there may be different systems and processes used for those phases. The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) will contact pre-registered individuals to schedule an appointment at a local health department, pharmacy or other healthcare provider.
Pre-registration does not guarantee an appointment or a vaccination, but the process enables VDH to contact recipients when vaccines are available so they can make an appointment.
VDH has been pro-actively pre-registering Phase 1b recipients in anticipation of vaccine’s being available, so appointments may not immediately be available to new registrants. They will be made — and vaccines will be given — as quickly as possible.
Currently, two COVID-19 vaccines, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, are authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration and are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Statewide, VDH expects to receive approximately 100,000 doses per week, 50,000 of each vaccine.
As availability of the vaccine increases, Virginia will move to the other phases. Phase 1c will include other essential workers, people age 65 and older and people 16 and older with underlying medical conditions. The complete definitions of all phases, data and other information are on VDH’s Vaccine Response website at www.vdh.virginia.gov/covid-19-vaccine/.
Virginians who do not fall into priority phases will be offered the COVID-19 vaccine when it is more widely available. Once the vaccine is rolled out to the general public, distribution will be similar to the flu vaccine. People will be able to get the vaccine from a local pharmacy, a primary care physician, a federally qualified health center/free clinic, a local health department or other clinic that is participating as a COVID-19 vaccination program provider.
In the meantime, vigilance is still necessary for COVID-19 prevention. Cover your mouth and nose with a mask, wash your hands often and well, stay at least six feet away from others, avoid gatherings with anyone who is not a member of your household and get a flu shot.