The latest Northern Virginia county to announce that it will move to Phase 2 with the rest of the commonwealth is Fairfax County.
According to an emergency release on Wednesday, all individuals in the Fairfax Health District who are 16 or older will be eligible to schedule a vaccine appointment directly through VaccineFinder.org starting Sunday.
“We are excited to take the next step to Phase 2. While our scheduling in Phase 1 went well, I am confident that the new scheduling process in Phase 2 will help since everyone will become eligible,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement.
The county will no longer accept registrations for the COVID-19 vaccine, as the new system displays available appointments from approved vaccine providers across the county, including the health department, pharmacies, hospitals and some private practices.
Clinics managed by the Fairfax County Health Department and some of its partners may not be listed on VaccineFinder until late April or early May due to available vaccine supply and the need to finish vaccinating those on the county’s waitlist. Fairfax County will contact those on the waitlist to schedule an appointment.
McKay said he wanted to set expectations.
“The high demand for vaccination in Fairfax County combined with the available vaccine supply will continue to be a challenge, especially in the initial weeks of Phase 2. With patience and care, we will get everyone vaccinated,” McKay said.
Fairfax County will join Loudoun County and the City of Alexandria, which have already started vaccinating those in Phase 2.
Gov. Ralph Northam had previously set April 18 as the deadline to have every Virginian over age 16 to be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
COVID-19 vaccine availability expected to open up soon in Northern Virginia
Coronavirus vaccine eligibility, availability and appointments in Northern Virginia are expected to loosen up, according to a briefing received by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments on Wednesday.
“I think people in the next couple of weeks will be able to find open appointments online,” Dr. Danny Avula, the coordinator of Virginia’s vaccination program, said.
More immediately, it may be tougher to schedule appointments as jurisdictions begin to move into Phase 2.
“I do very confidently think that everybody who wants to be vaccinated will get that chance by the end of May,” Avula said.
Statewide, Avula said about 37.5% of the state’s entire population and about 50% of Virginians 16 and up have had at least one COVID-19 shot.
Looking at vaccine distribution based on race and ethnicity, Avula admits more work needs to be done.
The number of people in the Latino community who are vaccinated roughly matches their percentage of the population, about 9%. But, in the African American community, which makes up about 19% of the population, about 14.5% have been vaccinated.
Avula believes increasingly relying on community partnerships and mobile vaccine clinic outreach might help.
“Churches, other networks on the ground, faith communities, NAACP are all a part of how we’re using the voice and influence of key stakeholders or key networks to increase access to vaccination … we’ll be doing a lot more of this in the weeks to come,” Avula said.
The push toward true herd immunity against the coronavirus will depend on kids getting vaccinated.
“We are just starting our outreach to pediatrician’s offices,” Avula said.
He believes vaccinations, including kids as young as 12, could begin in early fall or late summer — maybe earlier.
“Younger kids down to age 2 are currently enrolled in clinical trials across the country,” Avula said, noting that collecting enough data on them to begin vaccinations could take until late 2021 or early 2022.
As for Virginia’s goal of herd immunity with 75% of people vaccinated?
“I think we’ll get there with adults by the end of summer,” he said.
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