CVS vaccine rollout starts in Virginia
Pharmacies are registering people ages 65+ for shots
Updated 3:40 p.m., Feb. 9
Virginia residents 65 and older are now able to register for vaccinations that will be given starting Friday at CVS locations across Virginia as part of an expansion of the federal COVID-19 vaccination program.
CVS will supplement existing vaccination programs by providing 26,000 more shots a week to Virginians, the Virginia Department of Health said in a news release Tuesday. The pharmacy and VDH tried to prioritize eligible Virginians who had already registered with the health department and were on waiting lists, but CVS is not able to do so “due to technological limitations with their national appointment system,” according to the release.
In the meantime, anyone who is 65 or older should register with the CVS system, even if they have already registered with VDH. At your appointment for the first vaccination, an appointment will be made for your second shot, VDH says. Appointments are required.
Dr. Danny Avula, the state’s vaccination coordinator, said Tuesday that the health department tried to figure out how to get people on VDH vaccine waiting lists on the list for CVS appointments, but none of the options worked. Local health departments were notified late Monday to add their pre-registered patients, but not everyone was able to be added, Avula noted.
“Not an ideal rollout, but at the end of the day, we are thankful” for more doses, Avula said. He said other states were also frustrated with the technical limitations of CVS’s site, compounded with only a week’s notification of the pharmacy chain’s vaccine rollout.
The state has received about 120,000 vaccine doses a week the past two weeks, and this will bring the number closer to 150,000 doses.
CVS’s scheduling system has two questions it automatically asks Virginians who register: Are you 65 or older, and did you register with the health department? Pharmacies will check age, but they won’t check whether vaccine recipients are registered with VDH because it would create too much burden on pharmacy employees, Avula added.
As for other people in prioritized groups — including teachers, first responders and people under 65 with health conditions — Avula advised them to register with their local health departments instead of CVS. He said it was the state’s request to limit the pharmacy rollout to people age 65 and older, as they comprise the highest priority group with many people who haven’t gotten vaccinated because of supply shortages.
Although Walgreens and CVS have been administering shots to employees and residents of long-term care facilities since December, this rollout is part of a new phase, in which the federal government is shipping doses to 36 CVS locations across the state, Gov. Ralph Northam announced last week. In the near future, Walmart, Walgreens and Kroger pharmacies will also offer vaccines, Northam added. Avula added that the other pharmacies will start offering vaccines in about three or four weeks, and he said the state will confer with the other partners to see if they can prioritize people who registered with health departments.
“This whole thing — it’s insanely complicated,” Avula said. He asked anyone under 65 to “step aside” and let older Virginians get doses. “This is not a system that allows equitable access,” penalizing people without reliable internet access, he added.
According to VDH, 1.13 million doses have been administered as of Tuesday, and 10.7% of Virginia’s population has been vaccinated with at least one dose.