The Blue Ridge Health District announced that it expanded vaccination eligibility to phase 1c — which includes essential workers in 13 different sectors — during a press conference Thursday afternoon. This expands eligibility to around 7,000 individuals based on preregistration information from the state’s online system, according to Ryan McKay, BRHD director of policy and planning and COVID-19 incident commander. An estimated 35 percent of the BRHD — or 89,048 people — has been vaccinated with at least one dose through phase 1a and phase 1b eligibility as of Thursday.
Phase 1c includes anyone working in sectors relating to energy, housing and construction, food service, transportation and logistics, institutions of higher education faculty and staff, finance, information technology and communication, media, legal services, public safety, other public health workers, water, wastewater and waste removal and barbers, stylistics and hairdressers.
The University’s Human Resource department sent a vaccine eligibility update to University employees — who are included in phase 1c — Thursday evening, informing them of this expansion. These employees include faculty, staff, resident advisors, IM Rec student workers, contract employees, research assistants, graduate teaching assistants and employees of the 23 University Associated Organizations, such as the Alumni Association and Jefferson Scholars Foundation.
All individuals who are eligible to be vaccinated in Phase 1 will be contacted to schedule an appointment by April 17 either via phone call or email, depending on the preferred communication method indicated during preregistration. However, Kathryn Goodman, BRHD public relations and communications manager, said it is more likely that phase 1c-eligible individuals will be contacted by mid to late next week to register for an appointment.
Email invitations will come from either the Vaccine Administration Management System — a system created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assist in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations — or from U.Va. Health. To register through VAMS, individuals will have to create an account after which they will be able to select an appointment time. Individuals contacted by U.Va. Health must call a hotline to schedule an appointment at its community vaccination center.
If any phase 1c-eligible individual is already preregistered yet fails to hear anything by the end of next week, the health district has encouraged them to email BRHealthDistrict@gmail.com with their eligibility phase in the subject line and full name, email, phone number and phase in the body.
According to McKay, the Virginia Department of Health increased the number of vaccines allocated to the BRHD starting this week. He said that this has been “anticipated” based on conversations with VDH, though the number of vaccinations allotted was higher than expected.
“We are going to see a significant increase in doses beginning April 5,” McKay said. “This presents a really wonderful opportunity to us to increase access to the vaccine beginning next week.”
This week, VDH allocated 4,900 first doses and 1,100 second doses of the Moderna vaccine and 4,680 first doses and 1,170 second doses of the Pfizer vaccine to the health district itself and an additional 4,680 first doses and 1,170 second doses of the Pfizer vaccine to U.Va. Health’s Seminole Square vaccination site, McKay said. A shipment of Johnson & Johnson vaccines is also planned, though its specific dose allocation will be announced in the coming days.
According to a BRHD COVID-19 Vaccination Plan Update, the week of March 21, the district received 11,600 doses across all three vaccines — over 5,000 below the 17,700 shots of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines already allocated for this upcoming week.
Governor Ralph Northam said Thursday that all Virginia residents aged 16 and over will be eligible starting April 18.
“The COVID-19 vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel — and that light is getting brighter every day as more and more Virginians get vaccinated,” Northam said in a statement. “Expanding vaccine eligibility to all adults marks an important milestone in our ongoing efforts to put this pandemic behind us, and I thank all of the public health staff, health care workers, vaccinators, and volunteers who have helped make this possible.”
Overall, 30.9 percent of the Commonwealth’s population has been vaccinated with one dose, and the state ranks ninth in percentage of doses administered, having administered 4,140,842 of 4,989,325 doses as of Friday.
Virginia residents can pre-register for the vaccine online or by calling 1-877-VAX-IN-VA.