Coronavirus in DC Area

Eligibility Widens for COVID-19 Vaccines in Virginia But Challenges Remain

Northern Virginia's health departments are scrambling to meet demand

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Some Virginians who hope to get vaccinated against COVID-19 are finding their shots may still be weeks away.

Gov. Ralph Northam raised hopes on Thursday when he announced he expanded the group of those eligible to get the vaccines. People age 65 and up, and those age 16-64 who have underlying medical conditions would be moved from group 1c to 1b.

But there are still challenges ahead when it comes to accelerating the schedule.

When Alexandria resident Phil Cefaretti heard the news from Northam, he quickly shared the information with his wife.

“I immediately ran up and went, ‘Boom! Time to call. Let’s get an appointment.’ She had already registered a week or so ago,” he said.

But her call to the Alexandria Health Department to check on an expedited appointment dashed her hopes.

“We were told [there were] 200 people in the previous group who hadn’t even been able to make appointments, so the question is, there are those people, and then where do we fall in the line after that?” Cefaretti said.

Northern Virginia’s health departments are scrambling to adjust to the demand and are responding to residents' frustration.

The Arlington Health Department issued a press release reading In part, “The expansion of people eligible under Phase 1b does not increase Arlington’s limited supply of vaccine doses.”

The ability to schedule appointments will depend on increased distribution of vaccines from Virginia. Even people in the original group 1b are finding it can take some persistence to get their shots.

Monica Parks, 84, said she called the Fairfax County Health Department at 9 a.m. Monday and ended up on hold for four hours. 

Northern Virginia Bureau Reporter Drew Wilder explains the expansion of people now eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccination in Virginia.

“At one o'clock, she came back on and I said, 'Whoopee!',” said Parks, of McLean.

She got her appointment, and two days later, her shot.

“I was very anxious to receive it, I really was, and I’m very thankful for the opportunity to have gotten it this early,” she said.

As for those newly eligible Virginians who are waiting, finding more health care providers to give shots and opening more mass vaccinations clinics will be key to moving the line. 

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