By Carol Vaughn —
When CVS announced last week it would bring 26,000 vaccine doses per week to Virginia, the Virginia Department of Health reached out to the company’s Virginia leadership to make plans for “how do we ensure CVS’ vaccine appointment opportunities are integrated into our state plan,” including equity issues and honoring people who preregistered with the health department for vaccination opportunities, according to Dr. Danny Avula of the Virginia Department of Health.
That didn’t end up working out.
The doses are sourced to CVS directly from the federal government through the pharmacy partnership program.
“We worked through a number of different options with CVS,” Avula said in a briefing Tuesday.
Among the challenges was that CVS has a national registration system set up, but was not able to tweak it to allow people who had preregistered with the health department to get priority for appointments.
While the company was willing to work with the VDH, “they were not able to deliver a technological solution that would allow us to preregister folks who had been already waiting on our list,” Avula said.
CVS made its appointment scheduler available Tuesday, even though a press release that day from the company said CVS would begin offering vaccination appointments to eligible populations Thursday.
The agreement was that Virginia health departments would have early access to the CVS system to sign up people who had preregistered with the health department before the site was announced in a national rollout Thursday.
“What that didn’t resolve was that people who were looking for appointments would find their way to them one way or another — so that’s what happened,” Avula said.
“Unfortunately, they were not able to do that in a way that limited access,” which meant anyone, not just people who had pre-registered with their health department, could make an appointment, Avula said, adding, “So all of those appointments were taken up pretty rapidly.”
Still, CVS is confirming that people scheduling appointments are age 65 or over, but not whether they previously had registered with their health district.
“While it does not meet what we had asked for…it does at least ensure that it’s going to one of our highest priority populations.”
According to CVS’ website, 28 Virginia CVS stores are active in the vaccination program. Appointments were fully booked at all 28 as of Wednesday.
None of the 28 is on the Eastern Shore, according to the CVS website, cvs.com/immunizations/covid-19-vaccine
Still, the additional doses should help the vaccination effort.
“It’s a large number of doses — 26,000 per week is an almost 20% increase to what we are getting as a state,” Avula said, calling it “not an ideal rollout, but at the end of the day we are thankful it’s a way to pull down more vaccine into Virginia.”
Avula said younger people with underlying medical conditions, who also fall under Phase 1b, are eligible for vaccination and should continue to preregister through their local health department, although supplies are limited.
The VDH is finalizing a centralized preregistration process, which should be ready next week, he said.
The Eastern Shore Health District is currently vaccinating Accomack and Northampton residents in Phase 1b.
If you are within this group, check with your employer about vaccination – each employer within this group should have one contact person reach out to Laurie Laird at 757-787-5880 or [email protected] to provide information for your organization members to be
Individuals age 65+ or 16-64 with an underlying medical condition and not included in an essential worker group should contact their physician’s office to schedule vaccination — both Riverside physician’s offices and Eastern Shore Rural Health centers are providing vaccine to Accomack and Northampton residents in these groups.