(Opinion) MMR vaccine

A vial containing the MMR vaccine is loaded into a syringe before being given to a baby at the Medical Arts Pediatric Med Group in Los Angeles on Feb. 6, 2015.

The New River Health District will begin administering the COVID-19 vaccine to people who fall in the Phase 1c category, which includes university employees.

New River Health District anticipates an increase in vaccine supply that will allow them to transition to Phase 1c.

Vaccines will be administered through large-scale clinics for employees and students of higher education institutions. Appointments are in the process of being scheduled through employer groups. Noelle Bissell, director of the New River Health District, estimates the district will need approximately 50,000 vaccines to cover the higher education population.

Virginia Tech employees will be able to go to vaccination clinics beginning next week on Tuesday, March 30, through Thursday, April 1, at Radford University’s Dedmon Center.

Employees can sign up for appointments between 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on these days. Up to 1,500 vaccine doses will be administered throughout the three days.

Currently the district is administering the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines through the clinics. If the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is available then it would be offered in a separate clinic. Offering all three at one clinic is a logistics problem, according to Bissell.

College students in the New River district are included in the Phase 1c group, but students graduating this spring are a priority for receiving vaccinations ahead of commencement.

Phase 1c also includes housing and construction, public safety, media, finance, legal services and other essential employees.

Large vaccine clinics are currently being held at Radford University’s Dedmon Center, but the district is working to find sites that can host a larger number of people as the vaccine supply increases. These sites preferably would include more parking and space for drive-thru vaccination options.

People eligible for the Phase 1c vaccination category should pre-register with the Virginia Department of Health.

As of March 22, about 15% of the New River Valley population is fully vaccinated.

The district is still working on distributing vaccines to people in the Phase 1b group, which includes individuals who are 65 years and older as well as individuals younger than 65 with high-risk medical conditions.

New River Valley residents who are 65 and over and still have not received a vaccination are encouraged to go to the district's clinics held on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. They can receive a vaccine without an appointment, though identification is required.

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