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Northam: COVID-19 vaccine will be open to all Virginians age 16 and older by April 18

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Northam at event in Dumfries First Mount Zion Baptist Church

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) during a stop at First Mount Zion Baptist Church in Dumfries in July 2019. (file)

During a stop in Dumfries Thursday morning, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that all Virginians age 16 and older will be eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine starting on Sunday, April 18. 

Northam made the announcement during a visit to a mobile vaccination clinic at First Mount Zion Baptist Church in Dumfries, where more than 1,000 vaccines will be administered today.

According to a press release from Northam’s office, the change comes “as nearly every Virginian in the highest risk groups who has pre-registered for a vaccination appointment has received one, and those still on the pre-registration list will receive appointment invitations within the next two weeks.”

“The COVID-19 vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel—and that light is getting brighter every day as more and more Virginians get vaccinated,” Northam said in a Thursday news release.

“We continue to work with diverse providers and community partners across the commonwealth to distribute vaccines in a fair and equitable way and ensure those at the highest risk are vaccinated first.”

As of now, vaccine eligibility is limited in the Prince William Health District to those in the 1a and 1b priority groups, which includes all those 65 and older, those between the ages of 16 and 64 with underlying health conditions and a long list of essential workers.

Virginia has trailed several other states in opening up the COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to the general population. 

In the press release, Northam said Virginia has so far administered 3.7 million doses but has has been challenged by a number of factors in regard to expanding eligibility more quickly.

“Virginia is administering vaccine doses as quickly as they are provided by the federal government. Because the commonwealth has followed guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prioritize those at highest risk, and because Virginia is a large and diverse state with many essential workers, many out-of-state commuters, and a high percentage of the population that wants to be vaccinated, it has taken some time to open eligibility to the general public,” the release said.

Of Virginia’s 35 local health districts, 21 have already started vaccinating essential workers in Phase 1c after providing appointments to everyone eligible in Phases 1a or 1b on the pre-registration list, the release said.

Prince William Health District is not among those who have moved into phase 1c.

Beginning on Sunday, April 4, districts that have invited everyone pre-registered in Phase 1c may invite members of the general public who have pre-registered. 

Based on the supply projected by the federal government, all local health districts will have enough vaccine to open appointments to the general public by Sunday, April 18. Those at highest risk will continue to receive priority in the scheduling process, the release said.

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