State launches COVID-19 vaccine hotline
Phone line to be staffed by 750 people, seven days a week
Gov. Ralph Northam announced Wednesday that a COVID-19 vaccine hotline, staffed with about 750 customer service employees, has launched. The number is (877) VAX-IN-VA, or (877) 829-4682.
The phone number, targeted for Virginians without reliable internet access, opened the day after the Virginia Department of Health started a statewide vaccine registration website, replacing local health districts’ sites. The number will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day, and some staffers speak Spanish, Northam said at his news conference Wednesday. Any Virginia resident who wants a vaccination can register through the website or the phone number, although the wait may be longer for some people, depending on qualification factors such as age, profession and preexisting health conditions.
Separately, anyone 65 or older in Virginia who wishes to receive a COVID-19 vaccination shot at a CVS pharmacy must also register on CVS’s website. Demand continues to outstrip supply, and about 1 million people in Virginia, or 12.4% of the state’s population, have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
TTY service is available for people who are hard of hearing, and there is a call-back service for people who speak languages other than English or Spanish. Callers must provide some basic information to determine eligibility for vaccination, but they will not be asked for a Social Security number or legal immigration status. Like those who register on the website, callers will receive confirmation that they are now on the state’s waiting list and a reference code to check their status later.
Fairfax County, unlike the rest of the state, will continue using its local website to register residents for vaccination. People who registered earlier with their local health districts may not yet be able to see their registration yet because those waiting lists are still being added to the centralized site, but they should be available in a few days, Northam added.
The governor said that he continues to talk to the White House and other governors regularly, and that he isn’t “shy” about mentioning the state’s need for more vaccine doses, which reflects the situation in other states.
“We have told the president and his team, ‘We need more doses,'” Northam said, at an average of 120,000 doses a week. Virginia needs about 350,000 doses a week to meet demand, the governor added. On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the federal government will increase the number of doses sent to states this week, from 11 million to about 13.5 million, and will also double the number of weekly doses sent directly to pharmacies, from 1 million to 2 million.
It was not clear yet how many more doses that could mean for Virginia, although the federal government has previously allocated doses to states based on population.
Many residents have raised concerns about equity in making vaccinations available to the state’s most vulnerable populations — chiefly Latino and Black residents who may work or live in conditions that leave them at higher risk of catching the virus. Virginia’s chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, Janice Underwood, said the state’s health equity task force is working across several agencies to make sure doses are available to people in those populations.
In the General Assembly, twin bills passed by the state Senate and the House of Delegates and signed by Northam allows dentists and other health care providers to administer COVID-19 vaccines. According to the Virginia Dental Association, which has 3,900 member dentists across the state, dental students and dentists will be allowed to volunteer at vaccination clinics, and many have completed the health department’s vaccine provider intent form, the first step for any health care worker to give shots.