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Inova Suspends First Doses of the COVID-19 Vaccine Starting Today

(Updated at 10:15 a.m.) Inova Health Systems has cancelled all appointments for people looking to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Starting today (Tuesday), the nonprofit healthcare provider will cease administering first doses of the Pfizer-BioTech vaccine for the foreseeable future due to a change to the Virginia Department of Health’s distribution process that has “severely diminished” supplies for Inova.

According to Inova, vaccine doses are now being sent directly to local health districts, which are responsible for allocating supplies.

“We understand and share the frustration that this news brings to our patients,” Inova said. “When we receive more supply inventory, we will first prioritize patients who had an appointment scheduled and then focus on opening further appointments up to eligible groups.”

Anyone whose appointment has been canceled will be contacted by Inova to reschedule once the needed supplies are available.

People who have already received a first dose and need a second one will be prioritized, and their appointments have not been affected, Inova says.

Inova says it has administered more than 70,000 vaccine doses to healthcare workers and select groups in phase 1b of Virginia’s COVID-19 vaccination plan, including patients aged 75 and older, emergency first responders, public safety personnel, and school employees.

Fairfax County Public Schools formed a partnership with Inova that enabled about 40,000 teachers and staff to start receiving the vaccine on Jan. 16. FCPS spokesperson Lucy Caldwell said then that all workers who wanted the vaccine should be able to get the two required doses through Inova’s clinics, which were expected to last three weeks.

“This is very disappointing news but we will continue to work with our partners from Inova and the Fairfax County Health Dept to secure vaccine for our staff as soon as we can,” FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand said in a statement. “We must keep the faith.”

With vaccinations stalled, the union that represents FCPS educators and staff called on Brabrand to hold off on plans to resume in-person learning for students.

“Educators want more than anyone to be back in schools, but COVID-19 continues to surge in our community,” Fairfax County Federation of Teachers President Tina Williams said in a statement. “We urge Fairfax County Public Schools to alter the return to school timeline given the current health metrics and this unfortunate shift in vaccine availability for school staff.”

The changes in vaccine distribution methods will also reduce the already insufficient supply available to the Fairfax County Health Department, according to Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay.

McKay explained the changes in a newsletter released last night:

The Virginia Department of Health has announced that they will only receive 105,000 vaccine doses per week from the federal government. For context, last week the Fairfax County Health Department alone received over 22,000 doses from VDH for the 168,000 residents eligible for a vaccine. This is in part due to two changes at the federal and state levels, not the County level. At the federal level, there is a nationwide shortage of COVID-19 vaccine. At the state level, unfortunately they have decided to change distribution to per capita, as opposed to the amounts County’s and hospital’s have ordered.

McKay says the county will prioritize the more than 50,000 people 75 and older who had registered to get vaccinated before Virginia expanded eligibility for phase 1b. Public safety personnel and people living in correctional facilities and homeless shelters will continue to get the vaccine through special clinics.

“It is profoundly unfortunate that despite all of our efforts at the local level that we must again ask for patience, which is frustrating for all of us,” McKay said. “I hate to have to share this news, but I also want to be transparent about the situation we are in.”

Photo by Karen Bolt/Fairfax County Public Schools

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