COVID-19 vaccines around the area became available this week for people 75 and older as well as some front-line essential employees.
Soon people 65 and older will also be eligible, Gov. Ralph Northam said in a Thursday news conference.
“We want to be vaccinating 25,000 Virginians a day as quickly as possible,” Northam said.
So far, he said, Virginia is receiving about 110,000 vaccine doses a week and distributing 100% of them to 160 vaccination sites around the commonwealth.
Only “a handful” of other states is distributing more vaccinations than Virginia is, and they’re all bigger, he said, naming California, Texas and Florida as examples.
“Everyone is working hard and eager to do more,” Northam said.
But while Virginia is prioritizing certain groups of people in phases 1a and 1b, like health-care workers, first responders and K-12 school staff, he said “we also want vaccines in arms.”
After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week announced that states should start prioritizing people 65 and older, who are currently part of Virginia’s Phase 1c group, Northam said he took steps to address those individuals as well as adults of other ages with serious health conditions.
Some Virginia health districts have already started vaccinating those groups, he said.
“Everyone in Virginia will be there by the end of the month,” he said.
In the Lord Fairfax Health District, which covers Winchester and the counties of Clarke, Frederick, Page, Shenandoah and Warren, COVID vaccinations are available through Valley Health at four Points of Dispensing (POD) sites — Shenandoah Memorial Hospital, Warren Memorial, Page Memorial and Shenandoah University’s James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletics & Events Center — as well as through the Virginia Department of Health at pop-up sites around the area.
The Valley Health sites are by appointment only, and appointments quickly filled up this week. Those who qualify for vaccination according to their priority group can sign up at Valley Health’s website. There is currently no designated phone number for vaccine appointments, but Valley Health is working on making one available.
The Health Department is taking walk-ins at its PODs. The next one available is at Clarke County High School, 627 Mosby Blvd., Berryville, from 8 a.m. to noon today.
About half of all residents in Virginia are now eligible to receive the vaccine, Northam said.
“That’s a major logistical effort and it’s not going to happen overnight,” he said. “Everyone will need to be patient. It’s going to happen as fast as it can be done.”
He said he hopes that by summer everyone willing to get a vaccine will have access to one.
Northam also asked that anyone with a medical background interested in volunteering in the vaccine effort contact the Medical Reserve Corps at vamrc.org.
“I look at this as a way of really pulling Virginians together,” he said. “The vaccines are really our way out of this pandemic.”
Virginia on Thursday added 4,294 new cases, as the Lord Fairfax district added 153.
Frederick added 49 cases, Shenandoah 34, Page 19, Warren 25, Winchester 21 and Clarke five.
Frederick reported two hospitalizations, while Page and Winchester each added one.
Frederick also reported two deaths and Shenandoah one.
The VDH reports that 215,101 people have received at least one vaccine dose, an increase of 21,829.
Its site reports 27,429 people fully vaccinated, an increase of 4,444.
Locally, Frederick as reported 2,290 (up 295) doses, along with 591 people fully vaccinated (up 67).
Winchester reports 2,732 (up 354) doses and 706 fully vaccinated (up 61).
Clarke reports 704 664 (up 40) doses and 66 fully vaccinated (up six).
Warren reports 925 (up 100) doses and 177 fully vaccinated (up 27).
Shenandoah reports 1,557 (up 331) doses and 231 fully vaccinated (up 22).
Page reports 533 (up 61) doses and 90 fully vaccinated (up 26).
Elsewhere, Harrisonburg has reported 4,946 cases (up 58), 137 hospitalizations (up two) and 50 deaths (up two).
Rockingham County has reported 4,803 cases (up 66), 248 hospitalizations (up three) and 57 deaths (up three).
Shenandoah County Public Schools reported 11 student cases (down two) and nine staff cases, with cases since Wednesday fluctuating at most of the schools.
W.W. Robinson Elementary, with two student cases, is on a virtual learning model through next Friday. Central High, with one student case and one staff case, is on a virtual plan through Tuesday.
The Warren County Public Schools division has 14 student cases (down one) and six staff cases (down one). Its online dashboard lists 108 students (down six) and 15 staff members quarantining because of contact with the virus. The school division added 10 cases to its cumulative count of students quarantining since Sept. 8 and subtracted one staff case from its quarantine count.
Winchester Public Schools lists nine staff cases and 12 student cases (up three).
Frederick County Public Schools division has one new student case at James Wood Middle, one at Robert E. Aylor Middle and one at Millbrook High.
Clarke County Public Schools division has two student cases and five staff cases (down one at Boyce Elementary). The division reports 18 students (down one) and three staff members (down three) quarantining.