With the COVID-19 vaccine expanding to more high-risk groups this week, the state Health Department, in coordination with Valley Health and Shenandoah University, is advising patience and continued vigilance in helping prevent the spread of the virus.
“This will be the first of a large number of vaccine offerings through the winter and spring,” Lord Fairfax Health District Director Dr. Colin Greene says in a Friday evening Health Department news release.
Its first local clinic this week will be from 8 a.m. to noon today through the Clarke County Health Department.
While supplies last, people 75 and older can get no-cost COVID-19 vaccines at the Boyce Volunteer Fire Department Social Hall at 7 S. Greenway Ave., Boyce.
To avoid overcrowding at vaccination sites, the Health Department recommends people stagger their arrival times. Those who have last names starting with A to J should arrive between 8 and 10 a.m., or K to Z between 10 a.m. and noon. If demand exists and supplies permit, vaccinations may continue beyond noon, the release says.
The announcement was one of several outlining the vaccine expansion to some of the area’s most vulnerable residents, including essential workers like police and K-12 teachers and staff.
On Friday evening, Valley Health announced that it would expand vaccines, with the help of Shenandoah University, to a small “pilot” group of people Tuesday in Winchester and around the greater health district starting Wednesday.
Vaccinations will be available for those select high-risk groups at Shenandoah Memorial Hospital, Warren Memorial Hospital, Page Memorial Hospital and Shenandoah University's James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletic & Events Center.
The Wilkins building will serve as a mass-vaccination site in the Winchester/Frederick County area in collaboration with Valley Health and the Lord Fairfax Health District, the university announced in a Friday evening news release.
“The 77,000-square-foot indoor athletic facility is the largest space within 70 miles of Winchester,” the release says.
The facility will be open for about 12 hours a day for vaccinations, and officials there expect to administer at least 1,200 to 1,500 vaccine doses each day.
“Shenandoah faculty and staff will continue to aid in the local vaccination rollout and will be on-site to help administer the vaccine,” the release says.
The Virginia Department of Health expects its registration system will go live today. Specifics about dates, times, locations and registration information for those included in Phase 1b will be available then. Community members should visit valleyhealthlink.com for more information.
Greene said Phase 1b will also soon include food and agriculture workers and other essential worker groups.
The Virginia Department of Health, at vdh.virginia.gov/covid-19-vaccine, explains its plans to vaccinate members of the 1b Frontline Essential Worker group in the following order:
Police, fire and Hazmat
Corrections and homeless shelter workers
Food and Agriculture (including veterinarians)
Grocery store workers
Public transit workers
Mail carriers (USPS and private)
Officials needed to maintain continuity of government
Likewise, those in the 1c Essential Worker group, which will be addressed after Phase 1b is completed, will likely be vaccinated in the following order:
Waste, wastewater, and waste removal workers (includes recycling removal workers)
Transportation and logistics
Institutions of higher education faculty/staff
Information technology & communication
Public safety (engineers)
Other public health workers
Phase 1c, which has not been assigned a start date yet, also includes people ages 65 to 74 as well as people age 16 to 64 who have a high-risk medical condition or disability that increases their risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
“Overlap of vaccination of groups is expected to ensure people in Phase 1b [and Phase 1c] are vaccinated as quickly and efficiently as possible,” the site says. “Opportunities to vaccinate Frontline Essential Workers should not be missed.”
For more information on where to access the vaccine, visit vdh.virginia.gov/covid-19-vaccine.
This week’s Point of Dispensing (POD) operation “will be the first of many such ‘open PODs’ that will serve the elderly and at-risk groups in the next several months, so if you miss this one, there will be many more,” the Health Department release says.
Additional PODs will be tailored and located to serve essential worker groups, the release says.
“Persons vaccinated in this group will have arrangements made to receive their second vaccine as well,” the release says. “Where a household couple contains at least one spouse or partner over age 75, vaccination will be offered to both.”
The Health Department advises people to continue wearing face coverings and maintain their social distancing efforts throughout the vaccination rollout.