State announces expansion of vaccine access for 1B group after rocky start to drive-through events
Thousands more seniors as well as educators in Delaware are expected to be vaccinated against the coronavirus this week, after mass vaccination events this weekend were plagued by delays.
An appointment-only vaccination event Tuesday at Delaware Technical Community College in Wilmington will target low-income, underserved seniors. It will be run by Vault Health, a new state partner. Invitations were extended through community organizations including the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League and the Latin American Community Center, and state officials say the event is booked to capacity.
Curative, which runs COVID-19 testing events throughout the state, will begin helping the state vaccinate seniors, officials in the Governor’s office announced Monday.
Curative will run vaccination events for about 750 individuals age 65 and older in Dover this week. Like the drive-through events this past weekend, these will be appointment-only. The state will send invitations to seniors who have registered on an online waiting list.
The Division of Public Health also plans another large vaccination event this coming weekend for at least 2,000 people.
“We’ll continue to press forward with the goal of vaccinating as many Delawareans as quickly as possible as the vaccination supply allows,” Gov. John Carney said in a statement Monday.
Pharmacies and medical providers enrolled in the state’s COVID-19 vaccination program are also vaccinating Delawareans age 65 and older. State officials say Walgreens, Rite Aid, Walmart, Aspira Health, and the Camden Pharmacy are also now providing vaccinations to seniors with appointments.
“We know that to reach all of the current and future phases in our vaccination effort, we have to have multiple opportunities and approaches, and we have been planning for that,” state public health director Dr. Karyl Rattay said in a statement. “There will be no one right way to get your COVID vaccine, and we are building new access points to serve eligible Delawareans now and in the future.”
Both of the vaccines the state is distributing require second doses. The state is currently focused on distributing its limited supply of the vaccine as first doses. Officials say that as supply allows, the state will prioritize second doses for individuals eligible under phase 1A, such as health care personnel and long-term care facility residents, who are at greatest risk of exposure to COVID-19.
According to the state’s online vaccine tracker, about 70 percent of the roughly 96,000 doses of the vaccine delivered to Delaware as of Monday afternoon have been administered. The CDC says it has distributed more than 116,000 doses of the vaccine to Delaware as of Monday morning, a figure state officials say includes allocations to pharmacies.
Educators are expected to begin receiving the vaccine this week. The state plans to administer the vaccine to this population in a staged approach based on risk level.
The state Department of Education (DOE) communicated to educators and school staff Friday that they will receive a link to pre-register for vaccine appointments Tuesday morning.
Educators and school staff will then self-identify as one of three risk-based groups: those 65 and older, those with certain medical conditions, or those who work with special populations who have a harder time maintaining distance and wearing masks; those whose job responsibilities require them to routinely interact with students or members of the public either within a school building or out in the community; and those working remotely.
The state does not currently have enough doses of the vaccine to cover the roughly 200,000 Delawareans who qualify under phase 1B. DOE has emphasized that vaccine distribution to educators is contingent on the state’s supply, and that high-risk educators will be given priority.
DOE expects to send registration invitations to 1,000 educators and school staff on Wednesday. These will be for vaccination events Thursday through Sunday.
DOE said that the exact locations of the events were still being finalized, but that there will be at least one in each county. DOE is partnering with Acme/Safeway Pharmacies to put on the initial site-based vaccination events.
Thousands of First State seniors were vaccinated against the coronavirus this past weekend, but some had to wait hours.
The state vaccinated more than 11,000 people over the weekend—a mix of Phase 1B seniors age 65 and older and Phase 1A health care personnel. The final count was more than 2,000 short of what the state had originally planned.
The large drive-through events in Delaware City and Georgetown were plagued by long delays, particularly on Saturday, when the News Journal reported hours-long wait times that drove some seniors to leave without receiving the vaccine.
State public health officials blame people arriving without an appointment, those with appointments failing to complete pre-vaccination screenings online, and technology issues due to cold weather. Officials reported shorter wait times Sunday after tweaks were made to the system.
Rattay and Gov. John Carney plan to hold a virtual town hall about vaccine distribution Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Those receiving the vaccine should continue to take precautions to prevent spread of the virus, even after being vaccinated. Necessary precautions include wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing, avoiding hosting or attending large gatherings, and washing and sanitizing hands frequently.
This story has been updated.