County, NRV enter Phase 1b of COVID vaccinations

Pulaski County and the rest of the New River Health District has moved into Phase 1b of COVID-19 vaccinations.

According to Dr. Noell Bissell, Director of the New River Health District, Phase 1b means vaccines are now available to police, fire and hazmat response personnel, those living and working in correctional facilities, homeless shelters and migrant labor camps, childcare/K-12 teachers and staff, food and agriculture workers, manufacturers, grocery store workers, public transit workers, mail carriers (USPS and private) and anyone age 75 or over.

Dr. Noelle Bissell

“We are all committed to using every available vaccine as quickly as possible. During this time, we will continue to vaccinate any people from Phase 1a who have not yet received a vaccine,” Bissell stated.

Bissell urged residents to find the most up to date information on vaccinations by visiting NRVRoadToWellness.com.

“This website is supported by the New River Valley Public Health Task Force and is updated continuously. We also will be posting information on the New River Health District Facebook,” she advised.

“Many Phase 1b recipients who are eligible because of your occupation may be getting your vaccine through your workplace, and we have started scheduling employer-based vaccinations for this coming week,” Bissell said Monday.

“While many people are anxious to receive their first vaccine, we are already booked solid for this week. We are continuing to make appointments for those in Phase 1b and we expect this phase will take us several weeks to complete.”

To receive a vaccine, pre-registration and appointments are required, as well as proof of qualification for Phase 1b. Residents should not simply show up at a clinic. Without pre-registration, appointment and proof of qualification, you will not be vaccinated and you may delay or prevent someone else from being vaccinated.

“Pre-registration does not guarantee an appointment or a vaccination, but our process enables the health

department to contact you when vaccines are available, to make an appointment. After you pre-register, please answer your phone when you see a call from the health department. This will confirm your appointment, and your vaccine,” Bissell explained.

How do you pre-register?

“If you are an employer with workers in Phase 1b occupations, the best option is to sign up your workforce online through the NRV Business Continuity Team at the NRVRoadToWellness site. Or call Ashley Briggs at (540) 427-7341,” Bissell said.

“If you are an individual aged 75 or older, you can register online at the link on the NRVRoadToWellness website. We also have a dedicated phone line for individuals at 540-838-8222 (VACC). The number is staffed daily,” Bissell said.

She noted the Task Force is working on accommodations and transportation for those residents who need it. Family members, caregivers and others may register on behalf of other persons.

“If you are an individual who works in one of the Phase 1b occupations, please check with your employer before signing up independently. Ask your employer to contact the Business Continuity Team through the NRV Road to Wellness website to begin the process of scheduling your vaccine. If you are a 1b worker that is not affiliated with an employer vaccination program, you may preregister online at the NRVRoadToWellness website.

“VDH will contact pre-registered individuals to schedule an appointment at a local health department, pharmacy or other healthcare provider,” Bissell said.

“If you do not qualify for Phase 1a or 1b, please do not call or try to pre-register online at this time. There

may be different systems and processes for later phases. If you try to pre-register before your phase is available, your vaccine appointment may be delayed.”

To sum it up, here is our process in the New River Valley.

Bissell said that as availability of the vaccine increases, Virginia will move to the other phases. Phase 1c will include other essential workers, people age 65 and older, and people 16 and older with underlying medical conditions.

The complete definitions of all phases, data and other information, are on VDH’s Vaccine Response website. The URL is vdh.virginia.gov/covid-19-vaccine.

Virginians who do not fall into these phases will be offered the COVID-19 vaccine when it is more widely available. 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 free clinic, local health department or other clinic that is participating as a COVID-19 Vaccination Program Provider.

“In the meantime, it is important to remain vigilant in COVID-19 prevention. Continue to protect yourself and others: cover your mouth and nose with a mask, wash your hands often and well, stay at least six feet away from others, avoid gatherings with anyone who is not a member of your household and get a flu shot,” Bissell urged.

“The vaccine appears to be very effective in keeping you from getting sick. But we do not yet know how well it prevents you from infecting others, how quickly its benefits develop or how long they last.

Patience and vigilance are the keys to beating this pandemic. Get your vaccine as soon as you can. But it’s critical, even after being vaccinated, to continue to practice the precautions we KNOW are effective in protecting yourself and those around you. Please, take care of each other. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but the tunnel is still very long,” she said.

The NRV Public Health Task Force released its newest COVID-19 Update on Wednesday.

The latest numbers for Pulaski County showed 17 COVID-19 cases reported on Thursday, with a 7-day average of new cases at 23.

Total number of cases for the county since March rose to 1,831, with 82 hospitalizations and 38 deaths since March.

A new stat included on the update is the number of vaccinations given. As of Thursday, 1,152 in Pulaski County had received vaccinations.

Radford City is at 12 cases as of Thursday, with total cases since March at 1,660. The 7-day average of new cases in Radford is now at 14.

Total hospitalizations in Radford are at 33 with 8 deaths.

Total number of vaccinations given in Radford now total 900.

By MIKE WILLIAMS, The Patriot