Fairfax County’s COVID-19 inoculation efforts are about to get a major boost in the form of a new mass vaccination site that’s expected to open by the end of March.
The county is collaborating with the City of Alexandria and Inova Health Systems to convert Alexandria’s Victory Center (5001 Eisenhower Avenue) into a mass vaccination center that could accommodate thousands of people looking to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
At a press conference yesterday (Tuesday), Inova President and CEO Dr. Stephen Jones said that, depending on the availability of supplies, the planned facility could enable the healthcare system to dispense 6,000 vaccine doses per day, doubling its current rate of roughly 3,000 doses a day.
“I feel a responsibility to get as many people vaccinated as possible,” Jones said.
Once it opens, the vaccination center will serve residents of Alexandria and Fairfax County. Eligible individuals must pre-register to get in line for an appointment either through the Fairfax County Health Department or, for non-county residents, the state registration system.
According to its website, Inova is currently assisting Fairfax County with eligible adults between the ages of 65 and 74, but it has also served essential workers, including Fairfax County Public Schools teachers.
While the pace of vaccinations continues to be limited by supply availability, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay says the addition of the Victory Center as a vaccination site will ensure the county and Inova can keep up as more vaccines start to come in.
According to the county’s vaccine data dashboard, Fairfax County’s latest shipment from the Virginia Department of Health included 19,220 doses for the week of March 1-7, a step up from the 13,000 doses that the county was typically getting just a few weeks ago.
As of 5:30 p.m. yesterday, there were more than 106,000 people on the FCHD waitlist. 298,332 people have registered to get a COVID-19 vaccine through the county health department, which has allocated 217,476 doses either by administering them itself or distributing them to partners like Inova.
“We were told by the [state] to expect a major increase in doses in the coming weeks,” McKay said. “We want to have the infrastructure to take care of those doses. We can’t control the dosage, but what is in our control is capacity.”
Inova chose the Victory Center in Alexandria for its mass vaccine clinic because of the building’s size and proximity to local transit facilities, including the Van Dorn Street Metro station.
The accessibility of the COVID-19 vaccine has been a top concern for Fairfax County in recent weeks, as health officials say the populations most affected by the pandemic have faced more challenges in getting vaccinated, often due to vaccine hesitancy or limited access to transportation, internet, and other services.
The county has been working to expand its partnerships with other localities, healthcare providers, and community organizations to reach different communities, though the process has not been entirely conflict-free.
McKay encourages everyone who is eligible to get the vaccine to take advantage of any chance to do so.
“This is an act of necessary charity,” McKay said. “It’s not about us, but about every person we interact with, like grocery store workers, transit workers, your children and their teachers…This gives us a convenient opportunity to do the right thing.”
Vernon Miles contributed to this report.