UPDATED: Police officers, teachers, homeless people and anyone over the age of 75 will be soon be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccination in the Prince William Health District.
The Virginia Department of Health announced Friday that the Prince William Health District, which includes the county, Manassas and Manassas Park, is one of 11 health districts in Virginia that will gradually move to the next phase of vaccinations, known as phase “1b,” beginning on Monday, Jan. 11.
The group includes frontline essential workers, people age 75 and older, and people living in correctional facilities, homeless shelters and migrant labor camps.
Virginia is currently in the process of vaccinating residents who fall in the “1a” category, which includes only health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities.
Prince William Health District spokeswoman Kathy Stewart said on Friday that vaccinations are available through the health district’s own distribution site, as well as through community partners and commercial pharmacies.
For those 75 and older, Stewart said the Prince William County Area Agency on Aging “will be a critical presence in our [distribution] as well as helping to get information out to that age group.”
“As we move through the list, we will work with local government agencies to determine the best way to notify the particular category of frontline essential workers when it is appropriate for them to sign up for appointments,” Stewart said.
Also moving into the next phase for vaccinations are the health districts of Alexandria, Arlington, Cumberland Plateau, Fairfax, Lenowisco, Lord Fairfax, Loudoun, Mount Rogers, New River and Roanoke County/Allegheny, VDH officials said in a press release.
All areas of the commonwealth are expected to move to phase 1b before the end of January, the release said.
The move is in line with a directive Gov. Ralph Northam issued earlier this week to speed up Virginia’s vaccine distribution. Northam set a short-term goal of vaccinating 25,000 residents a day and a long-term goal of 50,000.
“This is an important step that will provide increased flexibility to health districts across the commonwealth,” said Virginia COVID Vaccine Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula in a Friday press 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.”
Because there is a limited supply of the vaccine, frontline essential workers will be able to get the vaccine in the following order:
1. Police, fire, and hazmat
2. Corrections and homeless shelter workers
3. Childcare, K-12 teachers and staff
4. Food and agriculture (including veterinarians)
5. Manufacturing workers
6. Grocery store workers
7. Public transit workers
8. Mail carriers (U.S. Postal Service and private, such as UPS)
9. Officials needed to maintain continuity of government
Virginia Department of Health officials expect that it will take weeks to months to vaccinate Virginians who fall into the 1b category. The vaccine supply in the United States is still very limited. The federal government is currently allocating about 110,000 vaccine doses a week to Virginia.
The amount of vaccine available in the United States will depend on the capabilities of the manufacturers to produce the vaccine safely and is expected to increase later gradually over the next months, the press release said.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver said Friday that state health officials are “excited to begin vaccinating more people as we continue to work to put this pandemic behind us.”
“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,” Oliver said.