Fairfax County expands vaccine registration to more essential workers as supplies increase

Fairfax County, Falls Church City, and Fairfax City residents who work in grocery stores, manufacturing, and the food and agriculture sectors can now register for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment, starting today (Wednesday).

The Fairfax County Health Department announced this morning that it is expanding eligibility for the vaccine to the next three groups of essential frontline workers included in phase 1b, as defined by the Virginia Department of Health.

“We are opening these categories because our vaccine supply will be increasing over the next few weeks and we will be able to move through our current waitlist at a faster pace,” the health department said in its blog post.

This is the first time that the Fairfax Health District has expanded vaccine eligibility since Jan. 18, when appointments opened up to people 65 and older as well as younger people with medical conditions that put them at high risk of severe illness if they contract the novel coronavirus.

Virginia has been in phase 1b of its COVID-19 vaccination campaign since Jan. 11, but because of the limited availability of the vaccines, Fairfax County had restricted registration based on employment to the top three priority groups: police, fire, and hazmat workers; corrections and homeless shelter workers; and childcare and school teachers and staff.

The pace of vaccinations in Fairfax County has accelerated over the past couple of weeks as the health department has started receiving more doses. Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay says the county got more than 43,000 doses this week — a jump up from the 31,590 doses that came in last week, which was itself a significant increase from 19,220 doses in the week before that.

This latest phase 1b group focuses on individuals who work in the food, agriculture, and manufacturing industries, including grocery and convenience store workers, veterinarians, food pantry and distribution site workers, and butcher and slaughterhouse workers.

However, it does not include workers at restaurants and other food or beverage establishments, who are instead included in phase 1c.

The Fairfax County Health Department notes that newly eligible individuals should be prepared to show “some form of work-related identification or paystub,” since some of the county’s partner vaccine providers require proof of identity.

The Virginia Department of Health announced yesterday that some localities are ready to transition to phase 1c starting this week.

The Fairfax Health District still has five categories of 1b workers — transit workers, mail carriers, government officials, janitors and other cleaning staff, and clergy and faith leaders — who are not yet able to register for appointments.

However, the county health department says it expects to reach phase 1c by mid-April, and by May 1, it plans to open eligibility to phase 2, which will enable anyone over age 16 who lives or works in Virginia to register for a vaccine appointment.

Photo via Fairfax County Health Department

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