Since December, more than 15,000 people have received first and second doses of the coronavirus vaccine through the New River Health District. 

The district continues to schedule vaccine appointments for people in the phase 1a and  1b priority groups, but vaccine supply remains low, said Noelle Bissell, the district’s health director, on Wednesday during a weekly virtual update with members of the news media.

The district receives 2,000 vaccine doses each week from the Virginia Department of Health.

“Vaccine demand still far exceeds our supply,” Bissell said. “We simply cannot vaccinate anyone who needs or wants it in short order, so we still have to ask for patience.”

Along with its own vaccination clinics, the district is partnering with about 20 local pharmacies and medical providers to administer the vaccine to people age 65 and older, based on the state’s prioritization guidelines.

Some CVS Pharmacy locations in the region now are administering the vaccine for people age 65 and older as part of a federal allocation that is not connected with the New River Health District, Bissell said. Some Walgreens and Walmart stores plan to follow suit, she said.

This week, the Virginia Department of Health launched  a new pre-registration website for the vaccine. The site will merge previous registration data, so people who already entered their information do not have to enter it again. It could take several days for all of the data to merge, Bissell said.

Despite the massive vaccination effort, the coronavirus still is spreading in the community, including in some pockets of college students within the health district, Bissell said.

Even so, she said "that is something that we expected” with the return of students.

Through its business continuity team, the district is working with large employers in the region, such as K-12 schools, to schedule vaccination clinics for employees. Once the district moves to the phase 1c priority group and has available vaccine supplies, it will work with colleges and universities to register and schedule employees for vaccines, and it will plan onsite clinics to accommodate thousands, Bissell said.

She expects the district’s dosage supply to increase once several new vaccine versions are approved.

“We know that we can run sites to where we can vaccinate thousands of people in a day, so it’s just putting all of those logistics together,” she said. “And it’s having the vaccine.”

Read the latest campus COVID-19 update from Virginia Tech President Tim Sands.

— Written by Jenny Kincaid Boone