When a farmer wants to sell milk from a dairy farm, people don’t line up with empty bottles at the barn door to buy it. Before reaching the consumer in a grocery store, the milk needs to stored, transported to the dairy factory where it is tested, processed, packaged, and then transported to the store. At all stages, it has to be held at food-safe temperatures.
Although this is a simplistic analogy, there are some comparisons to be made with vaccine rollout. As we enter the next phase of immunizations, the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health District (RCHAD) is thrilled to be able to help more Virginians receive this life-saving tool. People who are aged 75 years and older, as well as frontline essential workers such as police, teachers, grocery store workers, and others are eligible to receive the vaccine, starting on January 11.
But we can’t all line up at the barn door.
All clinics for the foreseeable future will be closed, meaning they are not available to walk-ins. Everyone will be required to have an appointment. Here’s how we plan to provide our limited supply to the community:
• RCAHD’s top focus remains on getting all healthcare providers vaccinated first. In a parallel process, CVS and Walgreens are vaccinating residents and staff of skilled nursing and long-term care facilities. These are the groups included in the initial Phase 1a. We vaccinated almost a thousand people locally in this category last week, and we will continue to reach individuals in this category as quickly as possible.
• Next, as we roll out Phase 1b, we’ll prioritize our essential workers who are most at-risk of being exposed: public facing law enforcement and first responders.
• Phase 1b will also include other frontline essential workers such as teachers, grocery store workers, residents and staff of correctional facilities and homeless shelters, public transit workers, mail carriers, food, agriculture, and manufacturing employees. We will coordinate our efforts with employers in these areas to ensure that we reach people in the appropriate priority group. We are working with employers to make this process as smooth as possible.
• Over the next few weeks, we will be working with healthcare systems, independent healthcare practices, and retail pharmacies to identify the different options for individuals aged 75 or older to get registered for the vaccine. Such individuals can sign up with us through a survey link on our website at https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/roanoke/covid-vaccine/ to receive more information about vaccine opportunities as options emerge. Family members and caregivers can register on behalf of those who are unable to register themselves.
There are literally hundreds of thousands of people in Virginia who will meet the Phase 1b criteria. It is going to take weeks to reach everyone who wants vaccine. We are extremely motivated to work with our partners to vaccinate people as soon as possible but it will take time and adequate vaccine supplies. We ask for your kindness, patience, and flexibility as we work as fast as we can with the supply as we receive it.
Virginians outside these first two priority groups will be offered the COVID-19 vaccine when it is more widely available. While vaccines are a light at the end of the tunnel, now is not the time to let down our guard. Everyone needs to remember the 3 W’s: Wash your hands, Watch your distance and Wear a mask. Watch our website and local news media for updates as we work together to end this pandemic.