Northam unveils new COVID-19 vaccine pre-registration system

Updated: Feb. 17, 2021 at 11:22 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A new call center to help people get a COVID-19 vaccine is taking questions.

Wednesday, during a COVID-19 briefing, Governor Ralph Northam said the Virginia Department of Health hired 750 people to answer a new vaccine hotline.

That number is 877-VAX-IN-VA. It’s staffed from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., 7 days a week.

Since centralizing the state’s vaccination process Tuesday, Northam said more than 240,000 signed up sometimes at a rate of 300 per minute.

“I think the call center is really going to be helpful as well. People can pick up the phone who may not have access to the internet, and again we talked about equity and doing this as expeditious as we can,” said Northam.

Virginians who previously pre-registered for the vaccine through their local health district do not need to sign up again and will be automatically transferred to the new centralized system without their registration status being affected.

Callers will be asked to provide basic information to determine your eligibility, but officials say they will not be asked for your social security number or your immigration status.

Registering through your local health department was the state’s original plan for all this. It clearly wasn’t going well so they had to pivot and scramble.

“But we saw what was happening and people were asking for more,” said Northam.

But while this system is designed to streamline vaccine registrations it is by no means a quick fix. Vaccine supply is still very limited so pre-registering likely won’t result in immediate access to a vaccine.

More than 12 percent of Virginia’s population has now received at least one dose of the vaccine. Across the country, demand for the COVID-19 vaccine currently far exceeds supply, and it is expected to take several months to reach all individuals who want to be vaccinated.

The Commonwealth is prioritizing individuals who are most at risk of contracting COVID-19 and those who work in certain critical industries, based on public health guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Northam answered questions about the time it took to get a centralized COVID-19 vaccination registration process in place.

“It’s a logistical challenge, as you might imagine, to have a central registration system but we’ve had a lot of really good talented people working around the clock to make it happen,” said Northam.

Northam said capacity limits at outdoor recreational sports will increase to 250 starting Monday.

He also said overnight summer camps will likely happen this year and there will be movement on other outdoor events as the weather improves. But it all depends on COVID-19 cases and vaccine supply.

“The longer that it takes supplies to ramp up, the further that puts that mass vaccination concept down the road, right. If we don’t have enough supply to feed large mass vaccination channels but the capacity is there,” said Dr. Danny Avula, who is leading the state vaccine effort.

The state is receiving about 130,000 vaccine doses each week. Northam said he and other governors are pleading with The White House for more supply.

For more information on the states, vaccine effort click here.

For full coverage of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Virginia, click here.

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