Unless a lot more vaccine begins flowing into Prince William County, it could be mid-June before the nearly 49,000 people on the health district’s waiting list are fully vaccinated for COVID-19.
That’s because the county health district is administering vaccine doses at a rate of about 5,160 shots a week, and each person on the waiting list will need two shots to be fully immunized. At that rate, it will likely take about 20 weeks -- or five months -- to get through both priority groups.
What’s more, the local health district can only keep up the 5,160-dose-a-week pace if it continues to receive enough supply of vaccine to fill its available appointments.
This week, for example, the health district received only 3,600 new doses from the Virginia Department of Health, according to Brian Misner, the county's emergency management coordinator.
At that level of supply, the task of vaccinating the top priority groups will take even longer, Misner told the Prince William Board of County Supervisors Tuesday.
“If we’re only dealing with Moderna and Pfizer vaccine at the same volume we have been receiving it, then it will be many months just until we get through the folks on the wait list,” Misner said.
That was some of the vaccine math Misner shared with county supervisors Tuesday, which was also the first time he publicly disclosed the number of vaccine doses being administered by the county’s vaccination clinics.
Prior to Feb. 8, both the Prince William Health District and the county’s Office of Emergency Management declined to share the number of doses being administered weekly at each of the Prince William Health District's vaccination sites.
Misner also offered an update on the health district’s ongoing vaccination efforts. Some highlights:
Third clinic on hold for now: The Prince William Health District is still administering COVID-19 vaccine from just two sites: Potomac Middle School, in Woodbridge, and Beacon Hall, at George Mason University’s Manassas campus.
Although a third site was planned to open “on the west end” of the county on Monday, Feb. 8, that didn't happen because the health district is “still finalizing plans” for the site, Misner said.
Also, the location of the third site is still under wraps because the health district doesn’t want people to show up without a scheduled appointment, which will be made from the county's waiting list, Misner said.
What’s happening at Veterans Park? Safeway is administering shots from the community center at Veterans Park in Woodbridge, but those shots are also being scheduled from the county health district’s waiting list, Misner said.
What’s going on with CVS? Through a federal agreement separate from the county and the state, 36 CVS stores around Virginia are scheduling appointments for COVID-19 vaccine shots that will begin to be administered on Friday, Feb. 12.
In Prince William County, a CVS in Gainesville will be among stores giving shots, although no one in the county knows why that store was chosen, Misner said.
Mass confusion erupted on Tuesday morning when CVS tried to delay its appointment-making for the general public until Thursday in an effort to give VDH officials first dibs on its website to make appointments from local vaccine waiting lists. The move was an effort to allow the state to prioritize people already on the local waiting lists, according to CVS and state officials.
The problem? Too many people heard CVS’s initial announcement – made last week -- that it would begin making appointments on Tuesday, Feb. 8, and CVS had no way to keep those people off their website. As a result, many lucky people were able to make appointments while VDH employees could not.
Still, CVS expects to receive 26,000 doses of vaccine a week from the federal government, and will make more appointments available soon, according to CVS spokeswoman Amy Thibault.
“Beginning on Thursday, Feb. 11, anyone over the age of 65 (regardless of whether they have pre-registered with their local health department) will be able to look for appointments,” Thibault said in a Tuesday email.
“Appointments were filled quickly [Tuesday] due to the limited supply of vaccine we will be receiving. Additional appointments will open as we receive additional doses next week,” she said.
Appointments will be reserved only for those age 65 and older. CVS’s online form will ask if people are on their local waiting list, but the stores won’t have a way to check, Thibault said.
“It’s an honor system; we ask patients to confirm that the information they have provided during the registration process is accurate,” she said.
CVS appointments can also be made by calling 1-800-SHOP-CVS.
Walgreens is expected to eventually participate in the federal program, but it has not yet begun to make appointments, Misner said.
Can you check your place on the county wait list? No. The county has no way for people to check their number on the waiting list other than by the confirmation number people should have received after they registered.
But even that number isn’t an accurate waiting list slot because people are being called and emailed for appointments based on both their eligibility status – which includes their age or priority category as an essential worker -- and the time and date they joined the waiting list, Misner said.
The county is “looking at ways” to issue updates to people on the wait list, Misner said.
Appointments filled manually: Because the old online appointment system posed many challenges, staff in the county’s call center are mostly filling vaccine appointments manually, Misner said. So people who are on the waiting list should be sure to check their email and answer their phones.
That process is likely to change in the coming weeks, however, as a new statewide appointment system called “PrepMod” starts to come online. The new system – and possibly a statewide wait list, which is also under development -- will incorporate the existing waiting lists, Misner said.
How are second doses being scheduled? Also manually. The county call center will call or email people about seven days before their second shots are due to schedule appointments for second shots, Misner said.
The county is working off a separate waiting list of about 8,000 names of people who need appointments for second shots, Misner said.
Reach Jill Palermo at firstname.lastname@example.org