It’s closing on a week since Fairfax County shifted the scheduling and managing of vaccine appointments to Vaccine Finder.
Officials said that the change would give residents more flexibility and choice, but vaccine appointments remain hard to come by in the county, despite the CDC-managed site saying that the vaccine is “in stock” at a number of retail pharmacies in the county.
The county health department published a blog post earlier today (Thursday) that aims to answer a number of questions it has received about obtaining appointments through Vaccine Finder.
According to the post, when vaccines are listed as “in stock,” it means the provider reported vaccines were available at that location within the last 72 hours. However, it does not necessarily mean that there are available appointments.
When following the prompts on Vaccine Finder to check appointment availability, the site takes you to the individual retail pharmacy’s scheduler.
As of 3 p.m. today, CVS, Safeway, and Costco had no available appointments within a 25-mile radius of Fairfax County. Harris Teeter and Giant similarly came up empty, though their systems check only within a 20 and 10-mile radius, respectively.
The county’s blog post says this lack of available appointments is because the “vaccine supply did not increase to meet the demand that the expanded eligibility created.”
In an email to Reston Now, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay notes that there are “over 900,000 people over the age of 18 in the Fairfax Health District and as of Sunday, for those who weren’t already, [they] are all now eligible to be vaccinated.”
Retail pharmacies are primarily receiving their supply from the federal government through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership, but both Virginia and county officials told Reston Now that they’re assisting with allocating doses to pharmacies to “maximize footprint, capacity, and accessibility.”
State health officials said that 42,070 vaccine doses were allocated to Fairfax County retail pharmacies this week as part of the federal partnership.
Virginia’s retail pharmacies received 210,180 doses overall, meaning that Fairfax County’s allocation makes up 20% of that total. About 13.5% of Virginia’s population lives in Fairfax County.
The Commonwealth did not yet have allocation information for next week.
Beyond retail pharmacies, the county also notes that they’re providing vaccines to about 50 healthcare providers to “enable residents to get vaccinated through their primary care doctor or somewhere closer to home.”
In addition, there’s the state-run Community Vaccination Center at Tysons, which just opened yesterday (April 20) and is now listed on Vaccine Finder, as well as a clinic at the Fairfax County Government Center that is listed in the CDC’s Vaccine Administration Management System.
A new call center system at 703-324-7404 was implemented last week to assist residents with scheduling appointments, but wait times for callers could be long.
McKay declined again to commit Fairfax County to meeting President Joe Biden and Gov. Ralph Northam’s deadline of delivering at least one dose of vaccine to everyone who wants one by May 31.
“While we understand that is the Governor’s deadline and we will work hard to meet that, it will always be dependent on the amount of vaccine delivered to Fairfax,” McKay wrote. “We have high demand and the ability to vaccinate thousands a day and I look forward to continuing to get shots in arms quickly and efficiently.”
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