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New River Health District establishes COVID vaccine hotline

By WILLIAM PAINE

william.paine@southwesttimes.com

The Virginia Department of Health’s New River Health District has put a telephone hot line in service to answer questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. The hotline is available for individuals who may have questions about the vaccine and those who want to pre-register for the vaccine under Phase 1b. Those who qualify for phase 1a of vaccinations but have not yet received the vaccine, may also register.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Call Center number is (540) 838-8222 (VACC).

Individuals in Phase 1a include healthcare workers and emergency service personnel, as well as long term care facility residents and staff.

Individuals in Phase 1b include: Those 75 years old and older, residents of migrant labor camps and workers and residents at correctional facilities and homeless shelters.

In addition, individuals in these occupations are eligible for the 1b vaccination: Police, Fire and Hazmat workers, Teachers, staff and childcare workers for grades Pre-K through 12, Veterinarians, Food and Agriculture workers, Factory workers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, mail carriers and officials needed to maintain the continuity of government including judges and judicial workers.

Those under age 75, even with serious medical conditions, are not eligible in Phases 1a or 1b, unless they qualify according to their place of work or of residence.

Residents may also register online at NRVRoadtoWellness.com. Those who are not eligible under phase 1b are asked to not preregister because they may delay others from receiving the vaccine.

Pre-registration does not guarantee a vaccine but rather enables VDH to contact individuals when the vaccine is available. It may take a week or more for an appointment to be made.

Those calling the hotline may leave a message if a staffer is unable to answer. This is to be expected as there will likely be a high volume of calls. VDH asks that individuals leave only one message, as leaving more than one will cause a delay in the process.

“We have had people showing up at the vaccination site who do not have appointments, which causes delays for everybody,” said Noelle Bissell, M.D., director of the New River Health District. “Please do not do this. We are working to vaccinate as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, but we cannot vaccinate those without a specific appointment. We ask our fellow Virginians to honor the process so that we can move quickly.”

The district’s previous hotline number, 540-267-8240, will remain in operation for general questions about COVID-19, especially for questions about testing.

“We are committed to using every available vaccine, and to vaccinate as many Virginians as possible, as quickly as possible,” said Dr. Bissell.

As availability of the vaccine increases, Virginia will move to the other phases. Those who qualify for Phase 1c vaccines include people over 65 years of age and people between 16 and 64 years of age with a high risk medical condition.

Others who will be available for Phase 1c of the vaccinations include workers in the following categories: Energy, waste removal, construction, food service, transportation, higher education faculty/staff, finance, information technology, media, legal, engineers and any public health workers who were not vaccinated as part of previous phases.

Once the vaccine is rolled out to the general public, distribution will be similar to the flu vaccine. People will be able to get the vaccine from a local pharmacy, primary care physician, Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC)/free clinic, local health department or other clinic that is participating as a COVID-19 Vaccination Program Provider.

The New River Health district asks that the general public continue to use precautions until the threat of COVID-19 has passed.

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