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Find out when you’re eligible to get vaccine

As COVID-19 vaccinations move into their next phase, the Virginia Department of Health has rolled out an online tool that helps people determine what phase they’re in and alert people when it’s their turn in line.

The state health department rolled out the new tool Jan. 11. On the home page (http://bit.ly/vdhvaccine), it notes that while vaccine supply is limited and is being offered in phases, you can still find out when they can get one. Currently, the only two vaccines in circulation in the state and in the United States are ones from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

Clicking on the ‘Get Started’ tab, it asks people to choose their locality, and then it asks about their line of work, age and underlying medical conditions.

Once done, it will then determine what phase the user is eligible for the vaccine and allow them to sign up for an email alert and opt in to receiving text alerts on their phone. It will also provide a link to learn more about the phase in which you are eligible.

The state health department notes that you are consenting to provide your information in order to receive a notification about your vaccine availability and it will contact you to verify your vaccine eligibility and to plan vaccine administration. Submitting the form, it says, does not reserve a COVID-19 vaccine for you.

Currently, much of the state is still in Phase 1A of the vaccine rollout, though some health districts around the state — none of them around here — began Phase 1B vaccinations this week. Though not part of the announcement, Chesapeake Public Schools will begin vaccinating its staff this week, dividing them into three groups. Its vaccination process is expected to finish with second doses by mid-March.

The state health department says all areas of the state are expected to move to Phase 1B before the end of January. Local health districts will announce when they move into the next phase, and it plans to provide more information on its COVID-19 vaccine webpage.

“This is an important step that will provide increased flexibility to health districts across the Commonwealth,” said Dr. Danny Avula, the state’s newly-appointed COVID vaccine coordinator, in a statement. “The governor has made it very clear that the state should not be holding anyone back — if health districts are ready and able to begin Phase 1B vaccinations, they must be able to do so.”

As reported by the state health department Jan. 12, 200,402 vaccine doses have been administered in Virginia, with 181,316 people receiving one dose, 19,086 people who have been fully vaccinated, and 4,066 new vaccine doses that were administered Jan. 11. The state health department said 773,825 vaccine doses have been distributed, 66,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine going out Jan. 11.

Regionally, 1,225 vaccine doses have been administered in Suffolk, 530 in Isle of Wight County, 174 in Southampton County and 156 in Franklin. The state’s data does not indicate whether anyone locally has received second vaccine doses.

“We are excited to begin vaccinating more people as we continue to work to put this pandemic behind us,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver in a statement. “The number of calls to our VDH hotline and to our local health departments asking about vaccines is evidence that people want this protection. Our goal is to get shots into arms as quickly as possible. Vaccines are our best hope to get back to normal.”

The state health department said it will take several weeks to months to vaccinate state residents who are in Phase 1B. It said the amount of available vaccines would depend on whether manufacturers could produce it safely. It expects a gradual increase in vaccine availability over the next several months.

News reports Jan. 12 indicated that the federal Department of Health and Human Services would announce that it is releasing reserved second doses immediately and will distribute them over the next two weeks. The new plan would also alter guidelines and allow anyone age 65 and up to begin receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, and it would help states set up large-scale vaccination sites if it asks for help.

Last week, Gov. Ralph Northam urged that vaccines be rolled out faster as the statewide positivity rate is more than 16%.

To find out when you are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine and receive a notification of its availability, go to:

http://bit.ly/vdhvaccine