As Va. Transitions to Next Vaccination Phase, Arlington Still Working Through Current Group

Virginia health districts have the option of transitioning to the next vaccination phase this week, but Arlington will not be among those doing so.

The county is still working to vaccinate those in the Phase 1b group, a spokeswoman said, and it’s unclear when it will be able to join other health districts in Phase 1c.

Arlington — where demand for the vaccine is proportionally higher than in more rural parts of the state and, in fact, higher than almost anywhere else in the country — is not alone in being unable to move to Phase 1c quite yet. DCist reports that other Northern Virginia localities will also not be making the transition this week.

“Fairfax, Arlington, and Prince William counties, and the city of Alexandria, are among the D.C.-area localities still moving through Phase 1B, and not moving into Phase 1C this week,” the site reported.

The Virginia Dept. of Health announced Tuesday that Phase 1c will be starting in some parts of the state within days. From the announcement:

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced today that some health districts will begin the transition to Phase 1c vaccinations this week, and that all communities across Virginia should be able to open to this group of essential workers within weeks.

The decision to move from one phase to the next is made in coordination with local and state health officials and is dependent upon a variety of factors. Before moving to 1c, local health departments must have made strong efforts to reach all those eligible in 1a and 1b populations, particularly communities that have been disproportionately impacted, such as communities of color. Local health departments also must consider whether demand for vaccine has decreased among 1a and 1b populations.

“Finally, the light at the end of this long journey seems to be coming into view,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A. “Vaccine is our best hope of ending the pandemic. My heartfelt thanks to the many Virginians who are signing up and getting vaccinated and for the health care workers and volunteers who are administering vaccines.”

Cara O’Donnell, acting spokeswoman for Arlington’s health department, said the county does not have statistics for how many people are currently in line to be vaccinated under Phase 1b, nor is there an estimate for when Phase 1c would start.

“We’re still working our way through 1b priority groups – both resident eligibility and essential employees,” O’Donnell told ARLnow Tuesday afternoon. “We’ll move into 1c after those eligible in 1b are notified to schedule – I can’t really speculate on a timeline.”

Arlington’s smaller neighbor to the south, the City of Alexandria, said last night in a press release that it had 20,000 people still on its 1b waitlist.

Alexandria continues to make strides in vaccinating residents and essential workers, but AHD has nearly 20,000 pre-registrants in Phase 1b on the waitlist, who have not yet been contacted or vaccinated. Vaccine supply has been slowly increasing, from less than 2,000 total doses per week to the current approximately 5,000 doses, which are a mix of first and second doses. VDH and AHD anticipate these numbers to increase considerably in the coming weeks. AHD anticipates moving into Phase 1c in the next 3-4 weeks depending on an adequate supply of vaccine.

The Virginia Dept. of Health, meanwhile, has set a mid-April goal for starting Phase 1c across the Commonwealth, and a May 1 goal for starting to vaccinate any member of the general public older than 16.

“All communities are expected to move into Phase 1c by mid-April,” VDH said. “Anyone over age 16 who lives or works in Virginia will be eligible for a vaccine in Phase 2, which is expected to begin by May 1.”

As for why Arlington appears to be lagging its neighbors in terms of vaccinations on a per-capita basis, according to state health department figures, O’Donnell said it comes down to vaccine supply.

“I can’t really speculate on the VDH figures,” O’Donnell wrote to ARLnow. “As you know, they include data that we in Arlington County Public Health haven’t been involved with or have oversight of (Federal Pharmacy Partnership, etc). However, I can tell you that as of this past weekend, Arlington County Public Health has administered more than 97% of its received first doses and has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to ramp up vaccine efforts as soon as more supply is received.”

“We simply can’t administer vaccines we don’t have,” added O’Donnell.

As of Wednesday morning, 8.6% of Arlington’s population has been fully vaccinated, compared to 10.4% for Fairfax County and 10.8% for Alexandria, according to VDH.

A total of 57,856 doses have been administered in Arlington, per the state health department. Arlington County has administered roughly half of those doses, with the rest administered by medical providers, pharmacies and other private entities.

Photos via Arlington County

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