As access to COVID-19 vaccines open to additional groups in the D.C. area, local leaders have been warned about challenges that might affect the equitable distribution of doses.
During a Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments briefing Wednesday, Loudoun County Health Department Director Dr. David Goodfriend admitted that the county could not handle the onslaught of demand when the vaccine eligibility transition to Phase 1b was announced late last week.
“All of our call centers have been overwhelmed, probably starting with Saturday, but definitely on Monday, with people calling, people emailing, trying to get in for vaccine and trying to figure out where they fit. That’s been a challenge for us in Loudoun, and probably has been throughout” the area, Goodfriend said.
In Northern Virginia, Loudoun, Prince William, Fairfax and Arlington counties, and Alexandria, began Phase 1b distribution this week to people age 75 and older, as well as nine groups of essential workers, including day care workers, K-12 teachers, first responders and food workers.
“As we’re focusing on getting shots in arms, it’s a little challenging to make sure we’re not leaving folks behind,” Goodfriend said, while expressing concern about equity.
“We know it’s a lot easier for people with internet access, with education, with time and means to call up to make an appointment, to go online to make an appointment, to navigate the databases that we use,” Goodfriend said.
Another challenge for distribution is getting partners, such as chain pharmacies and large medical providers, through the federal application process to receive the vaccines so people can get shots close to home.
The goal eventually is for the COVID-19 vaccines to be available anywhere you might now get an influenza shot.
Over the past year, during each stage of the COVID-19 pandemic response, Goodfriend said there have been challenges and public concern about meeting demands at the time.
“I think we’re definitely experiencing that now, but there are going to be other and differing challenges going forward with the vaccine,” Goodfriend said. “We’re all committed to trying to get the vaccine as quickly into people’s arms as safely as possible.”
People who have questions about COVID-19 vaccine priorities and distribution are encouraged to reach out to their local health department. Find answers to frequently asked questions here.
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