NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Sentara Medical Group is working to get some of the most vulnerable population vaccinated. The healthcare system is now administering vaccines to people in Virginia’s 1b vaccine classification who have a Sentara primary care physician.

However, there are only a limited number of vaccines, and people 75 and older will be the first people offered the vaccine.

Sentara says this is a phased approach and those that qualify will be contacted directly through their Sentara MyChart account or by phone/text message.

Sentara says it’s also still in the process of vaccinating its health care workers in phase 1a (1a includes health care workers and nursing homes). So far, more than 24,000 vaccines have been given out to Sentara employees and community health care workers, Sentara says. 43% of all Sentara employees have received at least one dose.

The first of several vaccination clinics for the next phase kicked off Wednesday evening. As expected, demand is high.

“I’ll be 92 next month and didn’t want to take any chances,” said one woman, who received the first dose of the vaccine.

“We have five vaccination sites in Hampton Roads tonight,” said Dale Gauding, spokesman for Sentara. “We have 13 around the Commonwealth of Virginia and they’re literally booked up… We’re trying to manage a real disparity. We have several thousand doses of vaccine available and we have 96,000 patients on our panel who meet that age criteria.”

The healthcare system gets its vaccine supply straight from the manufacturers through the federal government allocation.

“It’s limited vaccine and it’s a huge number of people and it’s going to take a while before we can serve everybody who wants to get a vaccine,” Gauding said.

Although people 65 and up or those with comorbid conditions are eligible, Sentara is focusing on the age group 75 and up for now.

Some patients getting their first dose Wednesday said they didn’t hesitate at the chance to get protected.

“It could save my life and at 95%, I got to take those odds. Even if it was 20%, I would still stand in line and get this shot,” said a man who also received his first dose.

10 On Your Side has been told the vaccination clinics are “by invitation,” so existing patients 75 and up are encouraged to keep checking their MyChart accounts to see when they can schedule an appointment.

The vaccination clinics at Sentara are the latest major expansion into 1b by a health provider in Hampton Roads.

Riverside began vaccinating patients 75 and older who have a Riverside primary care physician earlier this week. Supply at Riverside is also limited and they say a plan is being put in place to vaccinate members of the public ages 65 and older and essential workers. For more information, click here. Bon Secours is also accepting appointments for 1b patients (click here for more info).

Chesapeake, Gloucester and the Eastern Shore have also done some 1b vaccinations through the Virginia Department of Health, but the vaccine hasn’t been generally available for 1b people across the region. On Jan. 11, 11 health districts began phase 1b vaccinations, mostly in western and northern Virginia.

You’re in 1b if:

  • You’re over 65, or have a preexisting condition
  • You’re a first responder, K-12 teacher, or daycare worker
  • You are homeless, a food service worker, public transit or mail carrier

State officials told WAVY’s Stephanie Harris that most other health districts in the region should be ready for 1b vaccinations by the end of the month.

Virginia officials have said they just don’t have enough doses coming in through the federal Operation Warp Speed (none added this week) to open up mass vaccine sites and other ways of administering the vaccine at this time. President Joe Biden has pledged to use several different methods to help get vaccines to people, including using the Defense Production Act to increase supply of materials needed for the vaccine.

VDH reports 360,051 of the 943,400 doses distributed have been administered so far, but about a fourth of those 943,000 went to Walgreens and CVS to vaccinate nursing homes. Walgreens and CVS have yet to even start first doses on some nursing homes. There’s also been delays in reporting, from both Walgreens and CVS and VDH, but officials say they’re working on it and more people have been vaccinated that what the data currently shows.

The Virginia Mercury reports CVS and Walgreen had little incentive to commit a large number of pharmacies and workers to vaccinating people after getting a contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for 99% of U.S. nursing homes that registered with the program.

West Virginia instead chose to go without Walgreens and CVS and use local pharmacies, with more than 250 pharmacies offering to help vaccinate people at 214 nursing homes. CVS and Walgreens on the other hand are vaccinating about 25 nursing homes per pharmacy.

More on vaccine data here

The Virginia Department of Health will make announcements when the mass vaccine sites are online (some like Virginia Beach’s are operating for a limited number of people, including teachers, which are technically 1b).

If you’re not a Sentara customer, you can call the VDH Hotline at 877-ASK-VDH3 (877-275-8343) or the North Carolina NCDHHS Hotline at 877-490-6642.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Sentara was the first major private health care provider to start 1b vaccinations for customers in Hampton Roads. Riverside started 1b vaccinations earlier this week and Bon Secours is now accepting appointments for 1b patients. WAVY regrets the error.