VIRGINIA — On Monday, Jan. 11, select health districts in Virginia will be allowed to begin the next phase of COVID-19 vaccinations.
The Virginia Department of Health said the qualifying health districts can begin gradually adding vaccination opportunities for the prority groups in phase 1b. This includes people aged 75 and older, people living in correctional facilities, homeless shelters and migrant labor camps, and front-line essential workers who are “essential to the functioning of society, are at substantially higher risk of exposure to SARSCoV-2, and cannot work remotely.” These include police, fire and hazmat; corrections and homeless shelter workers; child care, K-12 teachers and staff; food and agriculture, manufacturing; grocery store workers; public transit workers; and USPS and private mail carriers.
These health districts will be allowed to start phase 1b during the week of Jan. 11: Alexandria, Arlington, Cumberland Plateau, Fairfax, Lenowisco, Lord Fairfax, Loudoun, Mount Rogers, New River, Prince William, and Roanoke County/Allegheny. The Fairfax Health District includes the cities of Falls Church and Fairfax, while the Prince William Health District includes the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.
Moving forward, local health districts will announce when they begin Phase 1b, and that information will also be shared on the VDH COVID-19 Vaccine webpage. All areas of Virginia are expected to start phase 1b before January ends.
“This is an important step that will provide increased flexibility to health districts across the Commonwealth,” said Dr. Danny Avula, who Gov. Ralph Northam appointed this week as the COVID-19 Vaccine Coordinator in Virginia. “The Governor has made it very clear that the state should not be holding anyone back — if health districts are ready and able to begin Phase 1b vaccinations, they must be able to do so.”
All of Virginia has been in phase 1a of vaccinations since Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines started to be distributed in December. This phase includes health care workers and long-term care facility residents and staff. Hospitals gained access to vaccine doses for their staff, while health departments were tasked with giving doses to health care workers not affiliated with hospital systems. There is a separate federal program for vaccinations at participating long-term care facilities in partnership with CVS and Walgreens. Those vaccinations got underway in Virginia during the week of Dec. 28.
VDH estimates it will take weeks to months to vaccine Virginians in phase 1b. At a news conference on Wednesday, Northam estimated this phase has 1.2 eligible people; the phase 1a has an estimated 500,000 eligible people. The federal government allocates around 110,000 doses of vaccine to Virginia each week. That supply could increase gradually over the next few months depending on manufacturer capabilities. Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines require two doses; Pfizer’s doses should be taken 21 days apart, and Moderna’s doses should be 28 days apart.
As of Friday, there are 142,061 people with at least one dose of vaccine, which includes 6,848 people who received both doses. To date, 481,550 doses have been distributed in Virginia.
Residents who are included in phase 1b should check with their local health departments for guidance.