The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) said Friday that 11 select health districts around the state will begin vaccinating the second phase of priority populations, group 1b, this week, according to a press release from the agency.
The announcement comes two days after Governor Ralph Northam held his first COVID-19 press briefing of 2021, where he said the state would be faster at administering vaccines, implemented a “use it or lose it” policy for providers and released specifics on the people in group 1b.
“This is an important step that will provide increased flexibility to health districts across the Commonwealth,” Dr. Danny Avula, who was appointed to lead Virginia’s vaccination program, said in the release. “The Governor has made it very clear that the state should not be holding anyone back — if health districts are ready and able to begin Phase 1b vaccinations, they must be able to do so.”
Health districts starting vaccinations for group 1b this week are Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Prince William, Cumberland Plateau, Mount Rodgers, Roanoke City/Alleghany, among others, according to the release.
In the release, the VDH said all areas of the state are expected to begin vaccinating Phase 1b by the end of January. The Virginians who fall into the group are certain frontline essential workers, adults above the age of 75 as well as people living in correctional facilities, homeless shelters and migrant labor camps.
“We are excited to begin vaccinating more people as we continue to work to put this pandemic behind us,” State Health Commissioner Norman Oliver said in the release. “The number of calls to our VDH hotline and to our local health departments asking about vaccines is evidence that people want this protection. Our goal is to get shots into arms as quickly as possible. Vaccines are our best hope to get back to normal.”
Many providers in Virginia are still working to get those in Phase 1a – frontline healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents and staff – fully vaccinated, a process that has been ongoing since Mid-December, but got off to a slow start due to a number of factors.
On Friday, the VDH also released its prioritization order for essential workers in both 1b and Phase 1c.
Here is the full priority order for group 1b essential workers:
- Police, Fire, and Hazmat
- Corrections and homeless shelter workers
- Childcare/K-12 Teachers/Staff
- Food and Agriculture (including Veterinarians)
- Grocery store workers
- Public transit workers
- Mail carriers (USPS and private)
- Officials needed to maintain continuity of government
During his briefing on Wednesday, Northam said those in group 1b makeup 1.2 million people in the state, and that it will take several months, well into the Spring, to get everyone the required two doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
As of Saturday, the state has distributed 482,525 doses, administered 167,452 total shots – with 3,895 happening on Friday – and 11,023 people have been fully vaccinated, according to the VDH COVID vaccine dashboard.
For more information on the vaccines, Virginia’s plan or other related topics, visit: www.vdh.virginia.gov/covid-19-vaccine.
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