The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced that federal pharmacy partners would increase covid-19 vaccine access to people with severe conditions on Wednesday.

Within phase 1b at Federal Retail Pharmacy partners, the COVID-19 vaccine will be available to more groups. This is instructed by new guidance from the Virginia Department of Health in Richmond.

Newly eligible age groups include 16 to 64 with an underlying health condition or disability and essential frontline workers in phase 1b. These frontline essential worker groups are

  • Police, Fire, and Hazmat
  • Corrections and homeless shelters
  • Food and Agriculture (including veterinarians)
  • Manufacturing
  • Mail carriers (USPS and private)
  • Clergy/faith leaders
  • Grocery stores (including farmers’ market food vendors)
  • Public transit (including rideshare drivers)
  • Judges & public-facing judicial workers)
  • Janitorial & cleaning staff

Until now, pharmacies offering vaccines through the federal program were directed by the state to provide the vaccine to people aged 65 and older. School staff, teachers, students, and child care workers are also added under President Joe Biden’s directive. This does not yet apply to trades like roofers, plumbers, or electricians.

The expansion follows the state’s recent announcement that some Virginian communities could move from Phase 1b to Phase 1c. This announcement is based on various factors, including vaccine demand decreases despite strong efforts to engage eligible populations, the Virginia Department of Health said.

Over 300 pharmacies across Virginia are receiving the Coronavirus vaccine through the federal pharmacy program. There’s the capacity to expand to over one thousand pharmacies within Virginia.

Moreover, it has plans to increase vaccine availability based on fair and equitable access, supply, and demand. Currently, around 190,000 first doses were distributed through local health departments in addition to Virginia’s weekly allotment.

If we expand to more partners, it will help us contribute to that sustainability and continuity to ensure access to coronavirus vaccines for everyone in Virginia, said Wheawill.

Further, Wheawill says that the state has played a significant role in working with pharmacies to fight against coronavirus throughout the pandemic. First, through testing, and then to distribute the vaccine.

In February, the federal program started to help distribute vaccines on a broader scale, and Wheawill says getting pharmacies involved was needed.

Virginia’s vaccine coordinator, Dr. Danny Avula, has said that the majority of Virginian Pharmacies have been using the state’s pre-registration list to schedule appointments for vaccines through that system. 

Many federal pharmacy partners are working with the Virginia Department of Health to address vaccine waitlists, but some like CVS, Safeway, and Harris Teeter have their registration systems. DC residents should review their availability as it will differ from Virginia’s.

President Joe Biden has pledged that every American will be eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine by 1st May.

“Pharmacists are highly trusted and healthcare providers. They have the knowledge and direct access to covid-19 victim populations,” she said. 

They have been trained to counsel patients, supervise vaccines and provide awareness on other medications. Pharmacies are readily available to all the community, and most citizens live within 5 miles distance from a pharmacy,” she said.

VDH recommends using vaccinefinder.org  to find availability.

Published by John

John is a local news reporter for the Virginia Herald.  His coverage area is statewide with a focus on NOVA and Richmond area news. To contact John with a story please email: virginiaheraldstaff@gmail.com

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