Teachers may be able to get vaccinated by end of the month as Prince William Health Department works with Inova Fairfax Hospital and other partners to vaccine its residents and workers.
Director of the Prince William Health Department Dr. Alison Ansher, MD gave a presentation to the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, Tuesday, in which she provided updated information on the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.
While everyone is limited by the number of vaccines provided by the state, the department has fallen behind some neighboring jurisdiction limited by its small staff and facilities. Although it has 11 nurses, only four are qualified to oversee the administration of vaccinations.
However, the health department, which also covers the City of Manassas and Manassas Park, has made strides. It has almost completed vaccinating its 1a individuals, and has transitioned to beginning vaccinating 1b folks in the order prescribed by the state.
Information on signing up for a vaccination from Prince William County and Virginia Department of Health.
Included in the 1a group were medical workers most of whom were vaccinated in their own medical centers. The health department partnered with Walgreens and CVS to vaccinate those living in or working for assisted living facilities.
“I’m happy to say all our assisted living and long-term care facilities did take advantage of this.” Close to 90% of residents at Birmingham Green have received their first vaccinations.
EMS are now receiving vaccinations.
Prince William County has begun transitioning to the 1b group. The 1b “Frontline Essential Worker” group includes: Police, Fire, and Hazmat, Corrections and homeless shelter workers, Childcare/K-12 Teachers/Staff, Food and Agriculture (including Veterinarians), Manufacturing, Grocery store workers, Public transit workers, Mail carriers (USPS and private), and Officials needed to maintain continuity of government. On Thursday, Gov. Ralph Northam added those 65 and older and people with comorbidity to the 1b category.
For the next set of vaccinations, the health district has secured a larger vaccination space that George Mason University has made available to them.
Correction officers are being trained to conduct vaccinations of inmates within the detention center. People who work in homeless shelters are also receiving vaccinations. School nurses have received their vaccinations, and many are assisting the health department.
Prince William Health Department has made an arrangement with the Inova Fairfax to vaccinate For Childcare, K-12 teachers and school workers between January 30 and February 5 and beyond. More information will be made available to teachers on January 28. The health department is reaching out to private schools in the district.
The health department has also enlisted Safeway Pharmacies on the eastern end of the county to help administer vaccinations next week. They will focus on the senior population. Kaiser in Woodbridge has partnered with the health department to vaccinate people on dialysis.
The Prince William Health Center will employ their mobile unit to help those who cannot leave their homes, but it is a limited resource.
Once they roll into Tier 1c, there will be opportunities for other essential workers, which includes, in order of priority: Energy workers, Waste removal workers, Housing Construction, Food Service, Transportation and Logistics, Institutions of Higher Education Faculty/Staff, Finance, Information Technology & Communication, Media, Legal Services, Public Safety (Engineers), Other Public Health Workers Occupational definitions and further clarifications can be found within guideline.
The health district continues to look for partnerships in order to get more people vaccinated.
After getting through Tier 1c, vaccinations will be open to the general population with the exception of those under 15-years of age and under. The Pfizer vaccine has been authorized for people 16-years-of-age and older, but Moderna cannot be used on anyone under 18.
Both vaccines require two doses. The Pfizer vaccine requires three weeks between doses. The Moderna vaccine requires four. Pfizer vaccine which needs ultra-cold refrigeration. Ansher said they received mainly Moderna vaccines.
Ansher said scheduling poses some challenges. It must be done via email and every person must use a different email or it will be rejected. People can call and sign up without email but it makes the process take longer.
They will be moving to a new system that Inova uses because it is more efficient.
Advocated for Prince William Area Teachers
Supervisors asked what they can do to prioritize Prince William County teachers.
“Our teachers are actually in the classroom as opposed to Fairfax and Loudoun where they are teaching virtually,” said Chair Ann Wheeler. “In my opinion, they should have a priority to be vaccinated.”
“I completely agree with your statement there,” said Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland, who offered any resources they could provide.
Ansher said they lack enough highly skilled nurses needed to oversee the administration of the vaccine that is why it is working with partners who capability to administer their own vaccinations.
The health department nurses also need to conduct COVID-19 testing. “We continue to test more than any other jurisdiction in Northern Virginia using CARES Act money.”
Supervisors said they would do what they can to get more cooperation so that teachers could be vaccinated as soon as possible.
At the school board meeting that same evening, school board members voiced their concerns that their teachers will not receive vaccinations until after those in Fairfax County. Occoquan School Board member Lillie Jessie said it is “frustrating.”
Superintendent Steven Walts said Prince William County Schools does not have much control over the vaccine rollout.
“Fairfax County has five district offices and we have one,” said Supervisor of School Health Services Teresa Polk. “I believe they are working as hard as they can to help get this done.”
Walts said PWCS will prioritizing Tier 1 at-risk teachers and those already in the classroom when making appointments. He agreed to talk with the hospitals and see if they could work cooperatively.
He previously said they would be happy to offer vaccinations at the Kelly Center and in schools away from where students are taking classes.
Dr. Lateef noted that the Sgt. General has advised states to not worry too much about going in the correct order but making serve vaccines are being used in a timely manner.
There have been contradictory information from various sources as to whether jurisdictions should stick to the specific order or prioritize moving the vaccination process along.
Meanwhile, Thursday, the Governor said that vaccinations do not need to be a precursor to students returning to class safely.