“Our goal at the Blue Ridge Health District is to vaccinate well over 1,500 to 2,000 individuals a day. This will be both at our Kmart site in Charlottesville and in surrounding counties,” said BRHD Spokesperson Kathryn Goodman. “Ideally, while we are vaccinating local hospitals, pharmacies and other primary care providers will begin to offer the vaccine as well.”
However, vaccines for front-line healthcare workers in Phase 1a are not totally complete, which may complicate things as the district heads into the new phase. Goodman said because the district is heavily saturated with those who fall in both categories, it may take longer to get through the bulk of Phase 1a and Phase 1b.
“There are a lot of people who fall into Phase 1A and Phase 1B in our health district. There are a lot of essential workers that need to be vaccinated as soon as possible and the vaccine is going to help us end this pandemic, but it is going to take a while to get everyone vaccinated,” Goodman said.
Another complication is also added to the mix as the district begins the new phase: The pool of people now able to get the vaccine in Phase 1B is expanding, new per CDC guidelines. Now, those ages 65 and older can get the vaccine as part of the phase, a change from the original plan of including those 75 and older.
The phase is also now expanded to those ages 16 through 64 with a preexisting health condition listed by the CDC. Goodman says, though, the district is not requiring those who may fall into that category to provide medical proof of their condition.
“We are asking that everybody is honest and follows the honor code and honor system here, in signing up for our vaccine, having an underlying medical condition,” Goodman said.
Surveys to request the vaccine are available on the district’s website. For those who do not have adequate internet access to complete the survey, a hotline number, 434-972-6261, will be open for people to call. Goodman said the district has received thousands of calls since vaccine plans started.
“We’re excited that we will be starting Monday with triple the number of our hotline staff. We will have more people available. There will be a queue where people can now wait on hold, because we won’t have a voicemail set up as we’re going to try to answer as many calls as quickly as possible,” Goodman said.
The district will be working with employers to register essential workers who fall in the Phase 1B category in order to make the process smoother.
All vaccines are distributed by appointment only for the time being. Goodman noted the efficiency of those appointments has increased in a short period of time, with appointment times expected to last less than half an hour on average.
“Our capacity has doubled and tripled every single week so we anticipate in the coming week and in the coming months, we’re going to become very efficient in vaccinating, and we want to get thousands of people vaccinated, every single day,” Goodman said.