The Virginia Department of Health launched a centralized website Tuesday allowing residents of Virginia to pre-register for the COVID-19 vaccine. By pre-registering, individuals are added to the vaccine waitlist and will receive updates when they are eligible to receive the shots. The process does not schedule an appointment.
Individuals who have already pre-registered for the vaccine through their local health district have had their information automatically imported into the new system, but it may take a few days for everyone’s names to appear in the system. Those who pre-registered previously do not need to pre-register again, and their status on the list will not be affected.
When pre-registering on the website, gender, race and ethnicity are required fields. This is part of the VDH’s effort to identify gaps in vaccine coverage and ensure that vaccine distribution is equitable. The website also allows individuals to check their registration status and gain access to additional information about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
This website comes amidst confusion surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine rollout process, with local health departments each having their own different pre-registration systems. Previously, individuals falsely registered for COVID-19 appointments at U.Va. Health despite being ineligible due to uncertainty surrounding the vaccine scheduling system.
The Fairfax Health District, however, has chosen to opt out of this centralized registration system at this time. Residents of the district — which includes Fairfax County, the cities of Falls Church and Fairfax and the towns of Vienna and Herndon — should still register through the county’s pre-registration system. According to Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay, the county had invested a lot of resources into their registration system and wanted to maintain a system that residents were familiar with.
Another exception is those who are planning to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine at participating CVS locations. Individuals who are aged 65 and older may register for a COVID-19 vaccine through CVS but must continue to do so through the CVS Pharmacy website. There was initially confusion surrounding registering through CVS when online registration opened early on Feb. 9, only hours after the pharmacy had announced they would not be taking appointments for two days. When many people realized that the system had opened early, appointments had all been booked.
In-store shots at CVS pharmacies in Virginia began Feb. 12. CVS will receive a shipment of about 26,000 doses from the federal government each week.
Beyond the state’s centralized pre-registration website, the VDH also launched a hotline number Wednesday for those uncomfortable with pre-registering online. The number is 877-VAX-IN-VA and is staffed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. 10 percent of the 750 people hired to work the phones speak Spanish, and other language speakers can ask to be called back in one of 100 languages.
In a COVID-19 briefing Wednesday, Governor Ralph Northam said more than 240,000 people had signed up — at times with a rate of 300 per minute, though the average signup time is 150 per minute.
Virginia is currently in Phase 1B of vaccinations, prioritizing the vaccination of frontline essential workers, individuals aged 65 and older, individuals with high-risk medical conditions and those living and working in homeless shelters, correctional facilities and migrant labor camps. Nearly 50 percent of the state qualifies for a vaccine under Phase 1A and Phase 1B.
The Blue Ridge Health District is still vaccinating frontline healthcare workers under Phase 1A, certain essential workers under Phase 1B and individuals aged 75 or older in partnership with U.Va. Health. Individuals aged 65 or older and individuals between 16-64 years of age with high-risk medical conditions may not be able to receive a vaccine until March or April due to a limited vaccine supply of less than 3,000 doses per week.
As of Tuesday, 12 percent of Virginians have received their first dose of the vaccine. The state received around 130,000 doses every week. U.Va. Health has administered 44,405 doses of the vaccine as of Wednesday.