Va. to institute statewide COVID-19 vaccine preregistration system; Fairfax Co. to sit out

Virginia is beginning a statewide COVID-19 vaccination signup program, and that means local systems will shut down Friday evening.

The Virginia Department of Health said in a statement that local vaccination registration systems will shut down at 5 p.m. Friday, and the new statewide system will start up Tuesday, Feb. 16.

Current waiting lists at local health departments will be folded into the statewide system, the health department said.

Virginia vaccine coordinator Dr. Danny Avula said at a media briefing Friday that the local systems will reopen, but they’ll link to the statewide site.

There’s one major exception: Fairfax County.

“The Fairfax Health District will not be using the new system at this time,” the Fairfax County Health Department said Friday. They said residents should not sign up at the state site but keep using the county system.

“We invested a lot of resources into our registration system and worked out the kinks to ensure we continue to process more people than any other health district in the state,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay. “At this point, I am glad we can maintain our system that residents are familiar with to cut down on confusion.”

“They’ve worked really hard to build their own system,” Avula said of Fairfax County; “we absolutely hope they’ll join soon.”

McKay echoed that sentiment: “We will continue to have conversations with the state about registration as the vaccine process rolls out.”

“During the weekend,” the state health department said, “the Commonwealth will de-duplicate, clean, and consolidate the data from the local health district systems.” People “will maintain their current status in the queue,” it added.

The most important changes that a statewide system will bring about, Avula said, include a standard form for all Virginians, so they’re giving answers to the same questions regarding what priority groups they belong to.

The new system will also address a widespread problem, he added: “There will be a confirmation on the screen when you actually put the info on the form,” and “you will also get weekly reminders” as to where you stand in the queue. Residents will also be able to check their status at any time.

Call center

The centralized system also provides a statewide call center, with 750 call-takers speaking English and Spanish, as well as third-party access to translators in 100 languages. This, Avula predicted, would help with questions of equity for people who don’t have easy internet access and who can’t jump onto a website first thing in the morning to snag an appointment.

Call-takers will be able not just to take appointments but answer general questions about COVID-19, Avula said.

Residents will give their address when they sign up, and their appointments will be in their local health districts, Avula said. Local districts “will still curate their own lists,” he said.

The phone number and web address will be provided next week.

Fairfax County dashboard

Also Friday afternoon, Fairfax County launched its own COVID-19 vaccine dashboard.

McKay said the county dashboard “lets you confirm your registration status and see the progress of Fairfax County’s vaccination efforts in a push for improved transparency and communication.”

It shows how many vaccine doses the county has received and how many it has administered, as well as what date people who are currently getting appointments originally registered. As of Friday, the county was making appointments for people who signed up Jan. 18.

McKay said the need for such a dashboard became apparent shortly after people started signing up for vaccines and low supplies meant longer-than-anticipated waits: “We were hoping we’d be talking about a couple of weeks,” but in reality, “We have to make sure we reset people’s expectations.”

He said everyone on the county’s waiting list got a notification on Friday that they were still in the queue, and he hoped the transparency provided by the dashboard would make the wait less stressful. McKay added that he expected supplies of vaccine doses to keep going up each week.

WTOP’s Mike Murillo contributed to this report.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

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