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Wondering why you’re not getting the COVID-19 vaccine in Virginia yet? Here’s why

Vaccine distribution depends on health district

Distribution of Phase 1-b looks a little different in Virginia.
Distribution of Phase 1-b looks a little different in Virginia.

NEW RIVER VALLEY, Va. – Virginians are eagerly awaiting the COVID-19 vaccine, but Phase 1-b looks different across the Commonwealth. That means that people in this phase of distribution might have to wait longer than others.

Local health departments look to the Commonwealth for guidance when it comes to giving out the vaccine, but some health districts are pulling ahead of others

“We’re already making a big dent,” said New River Valley Health District Director Dr. Noelle Bissell.

Wednesday, she gave an update about vaccine distribution and said they’re getting about 4,000 to 5,000 vaccines a week.

[Where are Virginia’s coronavirus cases? The health department’s interactive map]

They’ve already vaccinated a number of public safety employees, school teachers, staff and childcare workers, and are moving onto others in Phase 1-b, like grocery store workers and people 75 and older. However, she said it’s tough to say how many people fall into this phase.

“There are a lot of people in the New River Valley who want to get the vaccine and we are really excited to see the demand,” said Bissell.

She attributes their success to the NRV Public Health Taskforce, the Medical Reserve Corps and community support.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, the top three priorities in Phase 1b are:

  1. Police, fire, and hazmat
  2. Corrections and homeless shelter workers
  3. Childcare/Pre-K to 12 teachers/staff

The Director of the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts, Dr. Cynthia Morrow, said they’re still working on the first two. She said that differences between districts come down to population and resources.

“There are so many different factors but one of the factors certainly is the population size. Not only how big is the population, but how invested in vaccine is that population?” said Morrow. “Bottom line: what is the demand for the vaccine? And the other is what is the supply, not only of the vaccine, but the capacity of that local health district? What community partners are involved?”

Just in that district, there are about 12,000 public school employees. Roanoke County Public Schools are waiting for their doses.

In a statement, a school spokesperson tells 10 News, they said: “We are compiling a list of staff to be vaccinated and sending that to the health department. We are very eager and grateful to move forward with the vaccination. This will give us one additional level of mitigation to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Bissell mentioned that there are challenges when trying to vaccinate individuals 75 and older. Some don’t know how to register online to get a vaccine or don’t have transportation to get there.

“We’re doing the best that we can to get vaccine into people’s arms as quickly and safely and effectively as we can,” said Morrow.

The New River Valley Health District launched a new vaccine hotline for people to ask questions at 540-838-8222, while the Giles County hotline is 540-921-0035.

If you live in the NRV and qualify for Phase 1a or 1b, you must pre-register by visiting this website.

About the Author:

Lindsey joined the WSLS 10 team as a reporter in February 2019 and is thrilled to call Roanoke her new home!