PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Western Tidewater health districts started 1b vaccinations on Monday as all of Hampton Roads and the rest of the commonwealth enters phase 1b this week.
While the Virginia Department of Health’s website shows all health districts are now in 1b, Portsmouth isn’t set to officially start 1b until Tuesday, Jan. 26.
Group 1b includes front-line essential workers (teachers, grocery store workers, etc.), anyone age 65 and older, and those individuals age 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions.
It comes as state vaccine head Dr. Danny Avula said all health districts in Hampton Roads would be in 1b by next week during a vaccine update briefing last Thursday.
Eventually, officials hope Virginians in 1c and later phases will be able to get the vaccine from a local pharmacy, primary care physician, etc. when supply does increase.
For the first day of phase 1b, lines at the Virginia Beach Convention Center wrapped around the parking lot, many waiting 45 minutes in the line outside before even entering the building.
The Virginia Beach Department of Health began administering COVID-19 vaccines to those in Virginia’s 1b vaccination classification starting Monday, Jan. 25.
Virginia Beach said these are closed “point of dispensing” (POD) COVID-19 vaccination clinics and not open to the public.
The city says people need to register ahead of time at www.vbgov.com/vaccinatevb starting on Monday, Jan. 25. Residents can contact the city’s 311 Citizen Services call center with any questions and for assistance with pre-registration.
Dial “311” within Virginia Beach city limits. Callers from outside the city limits can dial (757) 385-3111 to reach 311 Citizen Services.
“As vaccines become available for 1b, the health department will draw from that list and put it into the database that will send you an official invitation to be scheduled,” said Ed Brazle, Virginia Beach EMS chief.
Until this week, Virginia Beach has mostly been giving out vaccines to 1a (health care workers, etc.) at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, though some teachers and others have gotten the vaccine as well. 1a is still underway.
“We had slots that were not filled with the 1a people, so we went ahead and had some 1b people on standby and plugged them in. We’re going to use every vaccine that we have on hand,” Brazle said.
More than 7,000 employees for Virginia Beach City Public Schools are already scheduled to receive a vaccine.
“Providing the COVID-19 vaccine to citizens is our top priority. There is high demand for the vaccine and we are taking every measure to safely and effectively distribute it as quickly as possible to aid in the mitigation of COVID-19,” said Mayor Robert M. “Bobby” Dyer in a press release.
Although vaccine supply has been limited, Brazle said the city is making strides.
Virginia Beach says it will move to other phases when more vaccines are available. Supply is currently limited, with Virginia getting only about 110,000 doses per week.
“While the vaccine brings us steps closer to ending this pandemic, it will still be months before it is widely available to the general public,” said Virginia Beach District Health Director Dr. Demetria M. Lindsay. “Continuing to adhere to COVID-19 prevention practices remains very important as we work our way through the vaccination process.”
Officials are reminding the public that the distribution process will take time.
“Be patient as the supplies arrive. We’re committed to giving them out as fast as we get them,” Brazle said.
Group 1b vaccinations also began Monday, Jan. 25 in Norfolk.
The city defines front-line essential workers in phase 1b as:
- Police, fire, and hazmat
- People working in correctional facilities, homeless shelters and migrant labor camps
- Childcare/K-12 teachers/staff (public and private)
- Food and agriculture (including veterinarians)
- Grocery store workers
- Public transit workers
- Mail carriers (USPS and private)
- Officials needed to maintain continuity of government (including judges and public-facing judicial workers)
The vaccination clinics in Norfolk are not open to the general public.
Phase 1a workers will also still be prioritized.
“We are pleased to announce we are now moving into Phase 1b and vaccinating our next eligible group,” said Norfolk Health District Director Dr. Demetria Lindsay. “As the vaccine becomes more widely available, it is still important to adhere to public health prevention practices.”
Beginning Jan. 25, residents who meet the Phase 1a or 1b eligibility requirements can preregister for a vaccine by either visiting the Norfolk website or by calling 664-SHOT (7468) from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Monday through Friday.
Preregistering adds a person to a waitlist, but does not schedule them for a vaccine appointment. It could take four to eight weeks before a person on the waitlist is notified to schedule an appointment.
The Western Tidewater Health District began giving 1b vaccinations Monday, Jan. 25.
Those eligible include:
- 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
“The vaccine is expected to be in very high demand and the district asks for the public’s patience as they navigate through the various phases of vaccine deployment. As the district moves into future phases of vaccine deployment, more information will be made publicly available,” health officials with Western Tidewater Health District said in a statement released Thursday.
Citizens 65 and older who are unable to obtain vaccine through their healthcare provider or a pharmacy are asked to call one of the following numbers to make an appointment:
- Suffolk 757-514-4781
- Isle of Wight 757-279-3070
- Franklin 757-562-6109
- Southampton 757-653-3040
For more information, visit Western Tidewater’s vaccine page.
The Hampton Health District says it entered Phase 1b on Jan. 21.
Residents age 75 years of age and older who are interested in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine should complete the survey at the following link.
The health district notes that while the survey title says “65 & above,” they are only scheduling individuals 75 and older at this time.
The Peninsula Health District (which serves the residents of Newport News, Poquoson, Williamsburg, James City County and York County) began vaccinations on Jan. 21 with an initial focus on front-line workers, those living in congregate settings and people 75 years of age and over.
Like Norfolk and Virginia Beach, the vaccination clinics are not open to the public.
The vaccination planning teams are reaching out to employers with people in Phase 1b.
Soon, the health district will also start an automated scheduling system. For now, priority Phase 1b individuals should use the link on the health district’s website to register. They can also call 757-594-7496 and leave their information at the prompt.
“I know that there is frustration around the lack of vaccine. I would just say be patient stay informed with clinics and the opportunities in your area, either with your local health department, through your primary care physician or other mass vaccination events,” said Chief Pharmacy Officer at Riverside Health System Cindy Williams.
Individuals must have a form of identification such as a driver’s license and will be asked to show proof of qualification, like a work ID, to verify eligibility for the vaccine.
As far as availability for those needing second doses in Newport News, officials say they’re confident it’ll be available.
“I am confident that when we are looking at a three-week period in the number of vaccines that are coming in, even though it’s slow, we’re going to have enough vaccines to ensure those second shots,” said Newport News Fire Chief Jeff Johnson.
For more on Virginia’s vaccine plan, click here.