Anya Sczerzenie, Staff Writer
Anna Chen, Contributing Writer
The Virginia Department of Health introduced a new, centralized vaccine registration system on its website last week.
Previously, Virginians who wanted to get vaccinated could sign up on the website of their own health districts. The new, statewide system uses a common link for everyone across the commonwealth who wants to get vaccinated.
The opening of the vaccination website was marked by technical issues. In a press briefing on Friday, Director of Richmond and Henrico Health Departments Dr. Danny Avula said the issues should be fixed now.
“There were a couple of issues that led to people not being able to find themselves in the system,” Avula said during the briefing.
According to a Virginia Department of Health press release, those who have already registered through their health district’s website will be automatically migrated to the new system, and their registration will not be affected.
For Virginians who do not want to register online, a hotline was released along with the new website, according to the press release. The hotline number is 1-877-829-4682 or 1-800-VAX-INVA. The hotline is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.
Fairfax County, Virginia, the commonwealth’s largest county by population, chose not to be a part of the centralized system. Board of Supervisors chairman Jeffrey McKay said the county had already invested many resources into its own system, which has worked well so far. Residents of Fairfax County still have to sign up for vaccination on the Fairfax County Health Department website.
“At this point, I am glad we can maintain our system that residents are familiar with to cut down on confusion,” McKay stated in a release. “We will continue to have conversations with the state about registration as the vaccine process rolls out.”
According to VDH, 13.3% of the commonwealth’s population has been vaccinated with at least one dose as of Tuesday. Phase 1b of vaccination, which prioritizes people 65 and older and those with underlying health conditions, is ongoing.
“Demand for the COVID-19 vaccine currently far outstrips supply, and it is expected to take several months to reach all who want to be vaccinated,” according to the release.
Issues like duplicate entries and case-sensitivity requirements for email addresses led to some of the entries being deleted. Avula encouraged people whose entries were deleted to preregister again on the website.
“When we find yours from an earlier timestamp, we’ll then merge those records so that you won’t lose your place in line,” Avula said.
Dr. Alison Huffstetler, assistant professor in the department of family medicine said in an email that COVID-19 causes a wide range of illness.
“Individuals over the age of 65 with uncontrolled medical problems like diabetes often have severe cases resulting in hospitalization,” Huffstetler said in an email. “These individuals are also more likely to die due to COVID.”
Although VCU Health is working with state and local health departments to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine per VDH guidelines, the university is prioritizing vaccinations to those who are 75 and older. Following this group, the vaccine will then continue to be offered to front-line medical workers who are in direct contact with patients who have tested positive for COVID-19.
VCU Health is practicing a “zero waste” policy for the COVID-19 vaccines. This means if a dose is about to expire because of a missed appointment, that vaccine will be offered to another eligible patient because of the short shelf lives of the vaccine upon being defrosted.
The vaccines are packed and delivered in dry ice to maintain a subzero temperature. The Pfizer vaccine must be stored at -112 degrees Fahrenheit with a shelf life of up to six months.
There is a nationwide shortage of vaccines over the past several weeks, according to a VCU Health release.
VCU Health is not receiving deliveries of the first vaccine dose but is still receiving shipments of the second vaccine dose. Anyone who has already received their first dose through VCU Health is recommended to get their second dose.
As soon as VCU Health starts receiving the first vaccine dose again, it will resume vaccinating eligible patients following VDH guidelines, according to VCU Health.