Virginia health officials say they are heading into March with an ever-improving vaccine supply. In the next few weeks, many more Virginians will be heading to pharmacies for their shots. But there's still one problem — not all the pharmacies can coordinate with the state's vaccine waiting list.
Warrenton resident Mary Judkins has been waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment for weeks. She preregistered with the Virginia Health Department back on Jan. 7. This week, a breakthrough came: A friend texted her that there were appointments at Safeway.
"I got on, it was easy, and I just clicked some dates in February. Nothing available, but I went to March, and I got March 6," Judkins said.
Judkins is among the first Virginians to benefit from a growing number of doses coming from a partnership between the federal government and pharmacies.
The program, which began at CVS, just expanded to include Safeway, Giant, Walgreens, Walmart and some independent pharmacies. But not every store will have the vaccinations.
"Locations are decided on by companies in consultation with our Virginia Department of Health to focus these efforts on high-risk and vulnerable communities," Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said.
Right now, Virginia’s health department is getting about 161,000 vaccine doses per week. The pharmacy program means an added 52,000 shots. However, most of those pharmacies are not yet tied into the state’s pre-registration database, which now contains 1.7 million names.
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State officials say they are working to change that.
"We are trying everything we can to make sure Virginians who signed up with the VDH [Virginia Department of Health] list are in line for pharmacy appointments," Northam said.
Some of the pharmacies are coordinating already, sending appointment openings to the health department call center, which then calls people on the preregistration list. So health officials have a reminder: If you've preregistered, keep an eye on your phone.