February 16 Update: Virginia’s new COVID-19 vaccine pre-registration site went online Tuesday morning, but not without a bumpy start. Click here for complete details.
RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Many health department vaccination pre-registration portals will shut down ahead of the planned launch of the Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH) centralized COVID-19 vaccination call center and web platform on Tuesday Feb. 16.
In preparation for the switch to the state program, VDH had directed local districts to close their vaccination pre-registration forms at 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 12. Pre-registration will be down while the existing waiting list is imported into Virginia’s new system.
So far, registration for a vaccine has been handled by local health districts and each one had its own process. Some districts had the resources to set up their own portals, while others struggled with lack of staffing and working around residents’ lack of internet access.
Several weeks ago, Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) announced the state was training 750 people to start a statewide call center for people to call and have their vaccine questions answered, as well as signed up on the vaccination waitlist.
The call center will be accompanied by a new across-the-board digital registration form that’ll launch Tuesday, Feb. 16.
“There will be consistency in the web form, they’ll have consistent fields for eligibility across the state,” said Dr. Danny Avula, Virginia’s vaccine coordinator.
Avula feels that’ll help quell frustrations many have felt about prioritization inconsistencies. Local health department leaders will still be the ones choosing who is scheduled for the vaccine and when, but now they will have consistent data to make those decisions.
For instance, they’ll be able to group people by their underlying health conditions, Avula said.
The new statewide system will also give people confirmation numbers once they complete their pre-registration and send online users weekly updates on their status on the waitlist.
“This is actually one of the most important and most valuable upgrades of having this consistent form,” Avula said.
“Anyone who has previously filled out a survey or form or signed up for a waitlist to be vaccinated through their local health district will be automatically imported into the new statewide system. Individuals will maintain their current status in the queue,” VDH said in a release.
However several cities in Hampton Roads that set up their own registration portals said they did not plan to follow that mandate.
“We have been getting about 2,000 new pre-registrations every day after the initial rollout when we got 40,000 on the first day,” said Julie Hill, a spokesperson for the City of Virginia Beach.
“We think we should be able to do both — implement the new system and still transition the remaining registrations without a service disruption for our citizens.”
Norfolk spokeswoman Lori Crouch said much of the same, pointing out the request to shut down the portals were last minute.
“We found out yesterday about VDH’s plans and we are working closely with the state to ensure a smooth transition to the state-led system,” Crouch said. “Norfolk employees will not stop assisting residents with the preregistration process that we started more than two weeks ago.”
The best way to make sure you can get your shot going forward is to make sure you’re pre-registered at the state level. However, if you’re trying to get a vaccine at CVS you’ll need to keep checking their website each day, as they don’t have a waitlist system currently.
“This is one of the core issues I have with CVS’s process is that it does not allow equitable access,” Avula said. “It does not take into account people that don’t wake up at 5 a.m. This is not a Virginia specific process — this is how they’ve rolled it across the country.”
For more on WAVY’s COVID-19 coverage and information on how to get a vaccine, click here.