Technical Issues Bog Down Vaccine Rollout as Officials Urge Patience

The first day of pre-screening and vaccine registration for Fairfax County residents between the ages of 65 and 74 and those with high-risk medical conditions began with a bumpy start after the county’s system went down for most of the morning on Monday.

Now, as the system returns to normal and vaccine registration resumes, county officials are urging residents to remain patient. Instead of contacting the county through the health department’s vaccine hotline, officials encourage residents to complete an online pre-screening form and appointment questionnaire instead of calling the county’s hotline.

Still, some residents — including frontline healthcare workers who received the first dose of the vaccine in December — say they’re still receiving uncertain answers about when to schedule their second dose.

A local healthcare worker told Reston Now that she and several others she knows have had trouble receiving any information from the health department on when the second dose will take be administered. All residents receive a vaccination card and are required to receive a second dose of the two-course vaccine roughly four weeks after the first dose.

But some say they haven’t received any information on when the second dose will be available.

“I have called the department hundreds of times to attempt to schedule the second required vaccine,” a healthcare worker told Reston Now. ‘A week ago, I literally called 50 times and was unable to get through to speak to someone.”

When residents were able to get someone on the line, the information provided was scant, the source told Reston Now.

“A system that is already overloaded is becoming even more overwhelmed.”

Tina Dale, a spokesperson for the Fairfax County Health Department, told Reston Now that residents do not need to call the health department to schedule the second dose of the vaccine. The health department will provide residents with a link to schedule their next appointment by email.

The earliest the second dose can be administered by the health department is late this week.

But it may be weeks before registered residents receive information from the health department to register an appointment.

Within the first few hours of pre-registration opening on Saturday, the county received more than 33,000 new registrations. Gov. Ralph Northam recently expanded the number of eligible Virginians who can register for the vaccine.

Now, more than 40 percent of the county’s total population is eligible to register for a vaccine. The Fairfax County Public Schools System began vaccinating employees on Jan. 16. Vaccinations for FCPS are offered through the Inova Center for Personalized Health in Fairfax.

Once all residents are pre-screening through the online form or by phone, they will be contacted by the health department for scheduling. The county has also launched a webpage with commonly asked questions about the vaccine.

“There is a very limited supply of vaccine from the Virginia Department of Health and the county is constantly working to get more,” said Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn in a statement. “This process will take months, not days.”

Technical difficulties with the county’s IT vendor prompted delays on Saturday morning. The county’s phone lines were once again overwhelmed with an influx of calls.

Alcorn said that while he understands the issues were unforeseen, challenges so far are “still not acceptable.”

“We need to do better.”

Photo via FCPS

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