VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — People trying to get the COVID-19 vaccine on the first day of 1b vaccinations in Virginia Beach faced a line that stretched for several hundred yards, with rain and temperatures in the lower 40s.
Virginia Beach residents who signed up for a vaccine time slot for Monday were being advised to get in line 30 to 45 minutes ahead of their scheduled time as of 2 p.m., because they’d still have to wait behind earlier groups that have yet to be helped.
Bob Engle with the Virginia Beach Health Department told 10 On Your Side Monday’s clinic hours were supposed to end at 6 p.m., but they expect to be vaccinating past 7 p.m..
Those who were in line for the scheduled shots were still expected to receive them Monday, however.
“Today we’ve got 30 actual vaccinators and they’re shooting six to eight people per hour,” EMS Chief Ed Brazle told WAVY.com on Monday.
Brazle said there are some things they need to streamline, and some of the lines Monday happened because people were showing up early for their time slot and clogged the system.
Still, he said be prepared to wait. It could take an hour to get a person through the process. People should feel free to bring a folding chair with them if they need it.
On Monday, much of the staffing consisted of volunteers, but that could be expanded to more than 40 vaccinators when the process is in full-swing. As of Monday, shots were currently only being given at the convention center, but the process will soon be expanded to encompass three non-public clinics in the city.
In total, Virginia Beach officials said last week they hoped to vaccinate about 9,000 people this week. Virginia Beach, the state’s most populous city, was set to receive the highest amount of doses from Virginia because the commonwealth is now giving doses out based on population density.
The Convention Center is currently just giving out vaccinations to those in 1b (people 65 and older, those with co-morbidities, front line workers, etc.) and 1a (health care workers) but is expected to be a vaccination point for the general public whenever vaccination supply allows. Virginia’s currently only receiving about 110,000 vaccine doses per week.
Those who received shots Monday signed up through their workplaces over the last two weeks, Brazle said.
Many reached out to 10 On Your Side after logging onto the portal, and were confused about the process, especially the map.
“We have a number of technicians who are constantly monitoring and tweaking the site, but what it’s trying to do is just get you into the area where you either work or live. The point is to validate that you’re eligible to use the [Virginia Beach] portal,” Brazle explained.
So, when can those registered expect to get an appointment?
We asked Brazle who said, “That’s kind of the bad news in all this. It could be weeks or months.”
There are 127,000 people in Virginia Beach that qualify for a shot in group 1b, according to the Health Department.
And, even though this week the city expected to vaccinate about 9,000 people, next week, that 9,000 number will drop based on the number of doses the city expects to receive.
“If we only get 5,000 a week, we’re going to be doing this for the rest of the year,” Brazle said.
If and when vaccine production increases, however, Brazle said the plan is to bring in more staff to give more shots.
Amid public frustration and criticism over the rollout, Brazle admits there are challenges with communication and the flow of vaccine administration, but overall he’s pleased.
“9,000 people being mass-vaccinated in Virginia Beach this week is unlike [many others]. Very, very few communities are doing that much, so I feel good,” Brazle said.
Eventually other sites, such as pharmacies, are expecting to administer the vaccine as well.
Norfolk and Western Tidewater health districts also started 1b vaccinations on Monday, the same day the Virginia Department of Health reported the first case of a coronavirus variant (SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7) in Virginia. So far, health experts say the current COVID-19 vaccines are working against the variants.
When Portsmouth starts 1b on Tuesday, all Hampton Roads health districts will officially be in 1b.
BELOW: Watch Monday’s full coronavirus digital discussion with information from EMS Chief Ed Brazle.