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Parts of Northern, Southwest Virginia to Accelerate Vaccinations

Man behind podium
Dr. Danny Avula is now leading the effort to inoculate Virginia against COVID-19. As part of that effort, most of Northern and Southwest Virginia will begin to vaccinate some essential workers and older Virginians. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

The Virginia Department of Health announced Friday that some areas in Northern and Southwest Virginia will begin to vaccinate some essential workers and people over 75 years old.

The move comes as part of efforts to accelerate the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution which caught criticism following a slow rollout. As of Saturday, about one-third of vaccines received by Virginia have been administered. 

Dr. Danny Avula, director of the Richmond City Health District and recently appointed leader of the state’s vaccination efforts, said the change will streamline the vaccination process.

“This is an important step that will provide increased flexibility to health districts across the commonwealth,” Avula said in a press release. “The governor has made it very clear that the state should not be holding anyone back — if health districts are ready and able to begin Phase 1b vaccinations, they must be able to do so.”

On Wednesday, Gov. Ralph Northam put pressure on vaccine distributors by announcing a “use it or lose it” policy, saying the state would ship less doses if they are not being used.

“I want you to empty those freezers and get shots in arms. When you have viles, give out shots until they’re gone,” he said during a Wednesday press conference. “Don’t save anything. You’re going to get every dose you need, because more is coming.”

Previously, the state restricted coronavirus vaccines to health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities. Phase 1b expands vaccine eligibility to some essential workers and people over the age of 75. 

The essential workers included in phase 1b will be prioritized in the following order: 

  • Police, Fire, and Hazmat
  • Corrections and homeless shelter workers
  • Childcare/PreK-12 Teachers/Staff
  • Food and Agriculture (including Veterinarians)
  • Manufacturing
  • Grocery store workers
  • Public transit workers
  • Mail carriers (USPS and private)
  • Officials needed to maintain continuity of government

In total, 11 health districts will move on to Phase 1b of vaccine distribution starting Monday:

  • Alexandria
  • Arlington
  • Cumberland Plateau
  • Fairfax
  • Lenowisco
  • Lord Fairfax
  • Loudoun
  • Mount Rogers
  • New River
  • Prince William
  • Roanoke City/Alleghany

While all districts in Central Virginia will remain in Phase 1a, the press release said all districts are expected to move forward by the end of the month.