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February 5, 2021 · OPINION

Vaccination effort builds across five-county district

Graph/RRHD
The Rappahannock Rapidan Health District’s five counties — Fauquier, Culpeper, Rappahannock, Madison and Orange — compare favorably in their vaccination rate per 100,000 people.
By April Achter
Health Department Epidemiologist

We understand that our community is facing a great deal of stress about how to obtain a COVID-19 vaccination. We are working hard to get the vaccine to our residents as quickly as we can.

The Pfizer vaccine arrived first and went to healthcare facilities with ultra-cold storage capacity. Our hospital systems were very busy with the task of immunizing their staff. Healthcare personnel that directly care for COVID-19 patients received top priority.

Next, the health district received a shipment of Moderna vaccine and began vaccinating personnel identified in the Phase 1a group, such as healthcare workers who fall outside of a hospital system, as well as other front-line workers such as EMS and local law enforcement.

The majority of long-term care facilities in Virginia will receive vaccinations from CVS and Walgreens through a partnership with the federal CDC and pharmacies.

As part of this effort, we are registering patients through a central portal on rrhd.org. Residents that are eligible for vaccination during Phase 1a and 1b may let us know they are interested in receiving COVID-19 vaccine by filling out the appropriate survey.

We, along with our partners, are contacting individuals to schedule appointments in the order their survey response was received and our vaccine inventory levels allow. The process to vaccinate all interested persons is likely to occur over many months. As much as possible, our clinics will remain appointment-based, to both minimize crowding and avoid long lines.

We will also coordinate targeted outreach to at-risk populations and work to get vaccine into our private pharmacies and doctors’ offices. All of these strategies provide opportunities to quickly and efficiently vaccinate our residents. Four pharmacies in the health district received a very small amount of vaccine in January. Two primary care offices were selected to assist with our vaccination efforts because they have completed CDC provider agreements, are offering after-hours and/or weekend vaccination clinics and have the capacity to store vaccine at ultra-cold temperatures.

This continues to be a rapidly evolving situation. The amount of vaccine received in Virginia will be a moving target and depend on when and how quickly vaccination doses are manufactured. As amounts increase and/or additional providers are eligible to receive and administer vaccine, we will re-evaluate.

Please monitor our Facebook page and webpage along with VDH's COVID-19 vaccine webpage for information regarding when additional vaccine capacity is available in our district and/or when other vaccination sites such as local doctors and pharmacies are available.

We are receiving many questions regarding how the Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District (RRHD) compares to other jurisdictions in Virginia. To address these concerns, I reviewed the data. For reference, you may find it here.

RRHD is a multijurisdictional health district, covering a very large geographic area with a small but mighty team. RRHD serves Culpeper, Fauquier, Madison, Orange and Rappahannock. As the graph illustrates, all of our counties are outperforming areas highlighted due to mass vaccination clinics with one exception: Fairfax has a higher rate than Madison County.

In an effort to address this, we have collaborated with Culpeper Medical Center and Madison County to hold special pop-up clinics. Our neighboring health district, Lord Fairfax (which includes Winchester), has spectacular vaccination rates due to Valley Health’s strong community outreach efforts.

Our goal is to have everyone vaccinated by this summer. This is a long process; please be patient.

In the interim, please continue to watch your distance, wear your mask and wash your hands.

A Warrenton resident, the writer works as the Rappahannock Rapidan Health District’s population health director.
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Linda Ward · February 5, 2021 at 7:37 pm
Why can't there be a registration data base where when you qualify for the vaccine you can get notice through the health department via email or phone? That way everyone that plans on being vaccinated is registered in the county they reside and waits for the category they fall under to be activated.
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