Technical Issues Bog Down Vaccine Rollout as Officials Urge Patience

The first day of pre-screening and COVID-19 vaccine registration for Fairfax County residents between the ages of 65 and 74 and those with high-risk medical conditions began with a bumpy start after the county’s system went down for most of the morning on Monday (Jan. 18).

Now, as the system returns to normal and vaccine registration resumes, county officials are urging residents to remain patient. Instead of contacting the county through the health department’s vaccine hotline, officials encourage residents to complete an online pre-screening form and appointment questionnaire.

At the same time, some residents — including frontline healthcare workers who received the first dose of the vaccine in December — say they’re still receiving uncertain answers about when to schedule their second dose.

A local healthcare worker told Tysons Reporter’s sister site, Reston Now, that she and several others she knows have had trouble receiving any information from the health department on when the second dose will take be administered. All residents receive a vaccination card and are required to receive a second dose of the two-course vaccine roughly four weeks after the first dose.

But some say they haven’t received any information on when the second dose will be available.

“I have called the department hundreds of times to attempt to schedule the second required vaccine,” a healthcare worker told Reston Now. “A week ago, I literally called 50 times and was unable to get through to speak to someone.”

When residents were able to get someone on the line, the information provided was scant, the source told Reston Now.

“A system that is already overloaded is becoming even more overwhelmed,” she said.

Tina Dale, a spokesperson for the Fairfax County Health Department, told Reston Now that residents do not need to call the health department to schedule the second dose of the vaccine. The health department will provide residents with a link to schedule their next appointment by email.

The earliest the second dose can be administered by the health department is late this week, but it may be weeks before registered residents receive information from the health department to set an appointment.

Within the first few hours of pre-registration expanding on Monday, the county received more than 33,000 new registrations. Gov. Ralph Northam recently expanded the number of eligible Virginians who can register for the vaccine.

Now, more than 40 percent of the county’s total population is eligible to register. The Fairfax County Public Schools System began vaccinating employees on Jan. 16. Vaccinations for FCPS are offered through the Inova Center for Personalized Health in Fairfax.

Once residents complete the pre-screening process through the online form or by phone, they will be contacted by the health department to schedule an appointment. The county has also launched a webpage with commonly asked questions about the vaccine.

The technical difficulties that plagued the vaccine registration system on Monday were the result of “a cloud-based problem” with the vendor that Fairfax County uses for the sign-up form, according to Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust.

“While we want to encourage everyone who is eligible to register, our ability to vaccinate is entirely dependent on vaccine being sent to us from the state,” Foust said in a newsletter. “Your patience will be critical both in registering and understanding that we have a very limited supply of vaccines coming from the state and we are constantly working to get more.”

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Alcorn said that while he understands the issues were unforeseen, the challenges so far are “still not acceptable.”

“We need to do better.”

Photo by Karen Bolt/Fairfax County Public Schools

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