Tysons, VA

Fairfax County opted out of Virginia’s new statewide COVID-19 vaccine pre-registration system to reduce confusion, but the decision seems to have had the opposite effect for some county residents.

The Virginia Department of Health told Reston Now, Tysons Reporter’s affiliate site, that on Wednesday (Feb. 17), the day after the launch, the statewide COVID information line received 542 calls from Fairfax County zip codes asking questions about vaccines that were rerouted back to the county’s call center.

When asked about this, the Fairfax County Health Department acknowledged the potential for confusion.

“We understand that it could still be confusing that there are two systems,” wrote Jeremy Lasich, spokesperson for the Fairfax County Health Department. “We are happy that we have a strong partnership with VDH and that their call center is appropriately routing questions about Fairfax County back to our local call center.”

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay told Tysons Reporter last week that the county had decided to forgo the Virginia appointment system in favor of its own existing system to “cut down on confusion.”

Reston Now reached out to the Chairman’s office with the information from VDH but has yet to hear back as of publication.

Fairfax County is the only jurisdiction in Virginia to opt-out of the state COVID-19 vaccine pre- registration system.

The county maintains that they are “consistently” communicating the need to register through their system through their website, blog, social media, and other avenues.

This includes translating COVID-related materials into Spanish and sharing information via text messages from the Health Department’s outreach team.

VDH has also added language to their website directing Fairfax County residents back to the appropriate portal.

If Fairfax County residents do end up registering through the state system, the information will end up eventually going back to the county, but those residents will be added to the end of the waitlist, the county explains in a newly published blog post.

If residents register in both the state and county systems, the first registration will be honored and the second one will be removed.

Over the last several weeks, the vaccine rollout across Fairfax County, Virginia, and the D.C. region has continued to be plagued with technical issues, equity concerns, and logistical challenges.

The county is currently in “Phase 1b”, meaning they are offering vaccine registration for all residents 65 years or older as well as those between 16 and 64 years old with underlying medical conditions.

Some essential workers are also in the process of getting vaccinated, including health care personnel, childcare workers, and K-12 teachers or staff members living or working in the county.

Fairfax County now has a registration status checker for people to see their eligibility, and residents can sign up for an appointment through the county’s vaccine registration page. Fairfax County residents can also call 703-324-7404 for more information.

According to the county’s new data dashboard, those who registered on January 18 — the first day it was open to those in Phase 1b — are now being scheduled for appointments.

More than 42,000 people signed up that day, nearly four times as many people as Jan. 11, the next busiest day for registrations, the county health department says.

The county expects it will take “several weeks” for all those that registered on Jan. 18 to get a scheduled appointment.

It may appear as if progress isn’t being made when the appointment date on the dashboard isn’t changing, but the health department is moving through registrations, Lasich told Reston Now.

“We continue to ask for your patience,” he said. “We promise you will get an appointment if you are on our list.”

Photo via Fairfax County Health Department

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