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Alexandria Health Director: ‘We Have a Long Way to Go’

Even as more age groups get inoculated against the coronavirus, Alexandria’s Health Department director told City Council on Tuesday that the pandemic is far from over.

For one thing, it’s estimated that variant strains of the virus with up to 45% greater transmissibility will be the primary type of the COVID-19 virus by March.

“I don’t think we’re anywhere near the end of the road,” AHD Director Dr. Stephen Haering told Council. “We have a long way to go, and until we get there we need to stay focused on the mitigation strategies that we know that work, because the mitigation strategies of wearing a face mask of maintaining a six foot distance, of sanitizing hands works against the new variants.”

Within the next week, AHD will start offering vaccine appointments to residents under the age of 65 with underlying medical conditions.

The Virginia Department of Health has given out more than 1.6 million vaccines, although they have been disproportionately given to whites. VDH data shows that 562,000 vaccine doses have been given to white Virginians; less than 100,000 doses have been given to black residents; 44,000 vaccines have been given to Latinos and 38,000 doses have been given to Asian or Pacific Islanders. More than 400,000 vaccines do not have demographic data.

But with more than 30,000 city residents on the vaccination waiting list, Haering said that the problem is the number of vaccines. Additionally, this week, AHD reported that CVS Pharmacy will start registering residents ages 65 and older for COVID-19 vaccination appointments on Feb. 12. The city’s COVID-19 call center is reportedly getting upward of 400 calls per day.

“The biggest limit right now is vaccines,” Haering said.

Virginia is currently in phase 1a and 1b, and those eligible for the vaccine are:

  • Senior citizens over the age of 65
  • Frontline health care workers
  • Frontline essential workers
  • People ages 16-64 with an underlying medical condition
  • People in prisons, homeless shelters and migrant labor camps

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