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COVID-19 vaccine pre-registration crucial for seniors

The Piedmont Health District is still currently vaccinating 1a and 1b personnel. Included in this group are front-line care workers, those with underlying medical conditions and older adults age 65 and over.

As the health district continues to try to vaccinate its most vulnerable residents, some confusion still exists in how to register to receive the vaccine, particularly among area seniors.

Health officials are hoping to dispel some of that confusion, and local organizations are working to get the vaccine in the arms of elderly residents.

Many local and state residents found the vaccination sign-up process to be nebulous at the beginning. Although the state has now unrolled a universal vaccination website and accompanying hotline, some citizens may still be sitting at home wondering when a health department employee will call them to arrange for a time to get the vaccine.

Residents should be aware such a phone call will not come unless they pre-register through the state website.

According to Brookie Crawford, public information officer with the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) central region, seniors and other Virginians eligible for the vaccine in phases 1a and 1b must pre-register at vaccinate.virginia.gov or by calling 1-877-VAX-IN-VA. By doing this, individuals can pre-register for the vaccine, check the status of their pre-registration and access additional information on the vaccine rollout.

Crawford said the Piedmont Health District, which covers the counties of Prince Edward, Buckingham, Cumberland, Charlotte, Lunenburg, Amelia and Nottoway, will only contact individuals from the statewide pre-registration waitlist for vaccination clinic events.

“You must be pre-registered to receive an appointment at one of the Piedmont Health District vaccination clinics,” she said.

In other words, if you want a vaccine, you or a loved one need to pre-register using one of the two methods above in order to get on the list to obtain a shot.

VDH, according to Crawford, has been working with community leaders in order to get the message out about vaccinations and the new pre-registration system, especially for seniors.

Locally, the Piedmont Health District has worked with community partners such as Piedmont Senior Resources (PSR) to share updated registration information to local older adults.

Crawford said VDH partnered with American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) to host two tele-calls on February 22 and 24 to talk with Virginia AARP members about the impact of COVID on older Virginians and to answer questions about the vaccine.

VDH is also partnering with AARP to send 100,000 postcards to Virginia households with members 65 and older. These postcards, Crawford said, promote the new COVID-19 vaccine appointment registration system and encourage members to write down their reference number, appointment timing and location.

VDH also recently launched its Ambassador program, a grassroots effort to build a network of volunteer community ambassadors to share COVID-19 updates and materials from top experts and sources with their friends, family, neighbors, community and social network.

Local organizations continue to work to spread awareness of COVID pre-registration to seniors, and some are also helping to get local older adults to vaccination sites the day of their appointment.

Wednesday, March 3, PSR Executive Director Justine Young said the agency has already transported more than 60 older adults to Centra Southside Community Hospital in Farmville to obtain their first dose of the vaccine. She added PSR would be taking those seniors back for their second doses across the three-day period of March 3 to March 5.

PSR, which covers all counties in the Piedmont Health District, is also hoping to assist in taking additional area seniors without other means of transportation to their local health departments for vaccines in the near future.

Young said PSR is willing to help older adults in getting pre-registered for the vaccine if they require assistance.

PSR has a COVID-19 hotline which can be reached by dialing (434) 394-0609.

Another group helping local seniors to get pre-registered for the vaccine is Farmville Cares. The organization, a project of the Interfaith Collective, fields calls and requests from those in need.

Farmville Cares/Interfaith Collective representative Patsy Watson said Wednesday that Farmville Cares is also willing to help citizens, including older adults, pre-register for the vaccine.

Individuals can call the Farmville Cares number at (434) 414-1188 or log on to farmvillecares.org to obtain assistance in getting registered.

Watson said it is important for citizens to get themselves pre-registered for the vaccine, adding that even those in 1c can pre-register now in anticipation of their eventual vaccination.

“The most important thing is to get in that portal,” she said of the vaccinate.virginia.org website.

Centra PACE (Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) has also been helping to get its enrolled participants vaccinated.

According to Mary Simonetta, community outreach manager for PACE, the organization has been working with its patients and their families to pre-register seniors, set up appointments, provide transportation to and from vaccination clinics and has even provided water and snacks post-vaccination before bringing participants back home, providing support and staying with individuals through each step of the process.

Recently, CVS Pharmacy began administering COVID-19 vaccines at select locations across Virginia. The Farmville CVS pharmacy is listed as accepting appointments, although all time slots were booked as of March 3. To make an appointment for vaccination through CVS, go to https://www.cvs.com/immunizations/covid-19-vaccine.