UPDATED: The Prince William Health District officially moved into the phase 1c priority group for COVID-19 vaccinations Monday, which is the last stop before the vaccine is open to the general population.
As of Monday, many parts of Virginia, including Fauquier County, had already opened COVID-19 vaccinations to all residents age 16 or older.
Prince William County, like the rest of Northern Virginia, began the week with vaccine limited to only the 1a and 1b priority groups. That changed at about 2:30 Monday afternoon, however, when the Prince William Health District announced the move into 1c via Twitter.
Phase 1c is the last step in Virginia’s phase 1 priority groups. Eligibility for the vaccine is open to all under phase 2, which the entire state should get to by Sunday, April 18, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday during a stop in Dumfries.
Phase 1c includes a wider group of essential workers who face a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than the general population but not as much risk as those in phase 1b. Some occupations included in phase 1c are: food servers, barbers and hair stylists, energy workers, construction workers, legal services, information technology workers and members of the media.
Phase 1c also includes college and university faculty and staff, a group the Virginia Department of Health is trying to get vaccinated in separate closed pods, Dr. Danny Avula, who is overseeing the state’s vaccination effort, said in a call reporters on Friday. Several Virginia colleges have announced plans to hold some in-person graduation ceremonies in May.
Some areas of Virginia moved into the phase 1c priority group more than a week ago. The group is smaller in number than either phase 1a or phase 1b, Avula said.
Accordingly, those areas of Virginia that have not moved into phase 1c should go through it quickly and will likely progress to phase 2 – open eligibility – shortly after moving into phase 1c, Avula said.
The state is shifting its allocation of vaccine to areas of the state still stuck in phases 1a and 1b to help move them toward phase 1c. That would include Northern Virginia, which saw its supply jump last week and will see another bump this week, Avula said.
Some health districts that remained in phases 1a and 1b last week, including Prince William, were already calling on those who pre-registered as members of phase 1c if they were unable to fill their vaccination appointments with people in phases 1a and 1b, Avula said.
“We have a tiered eligibility system. We invite anybody who is currently eligible, and if we have spaces that have not been fulfilled, we moved down to the next tier of eligibility,” Avula said. “So, I know that that's happened in Prince William. And so I think, I think they're just about there.”
According to Avula, health districts are allowed to move into the next phase when they are not able to fill at least 90% of available vaccine appointments with people in current priority groups for at least three days in a row. Also, health districts must have invited all phase 1a and 1b individuals on their waiting lists for appointments before they move into phase 1c, Avula said.
Once health districts move into phase 2, vaccination clinics will not be open to walk-ins, and recipients will still be called from the state’s waiting list, Avula said. That’s in part to prevent “vaccine tourism” – the term for traveling to receive a vaccine.
Local health districts “want to make sure that … they're, they're focusing on their local populations and that we don't have these issues of vaccine tourism, where people are coming from other parts of the state to take advantage of [areas with] more open access,” Avula said.
Once areas move into phase 2, all Virginians over 16 will be eligible to make appointments either through local health districts or through pharmacies that are administering the vaccine. Appointments at pharmacies can be found through vaccinefinder.org.
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