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Virginia expands Phase 1B, 65 and older eligible for COVID-19 vaccine

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TAZEWELL COUNTY, Va. (WVVA) - COVID-19 vaccine distribution for the elderly is expanding. Now, people 65 and older are eligible for the shots.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said this phase of coronavirus vaccine roll out in the Commonwealth aims to leave no elderly person without protection from COVID.

"We are going to move people who are 65 and up into Phase 1B," Northam said.

But if you find yourself in that category, do not pick up the phone to make an appointment for the vaccine just yet.

"If you are under the age of 75, we are not scheduling appointments through the health department at this time or any of our community partners," Dr. Karen Shelton, Cumberland Plateau Health District Interim Director, said.

You may be wondering, why? Gov. Northam said this expansion makes nearly half the state's population eligible for the vaccine.

"That's a major logistical effort, and it's not going to happen overnight," Gov. Northam said.

"You can't just turn on a dime... today we're doing this population. We have next week planned and staffed for this population. So we have to ramp up our staffing from multiple sources to meet the needs of our community, " Dr. Shelton said.

The Cumberland Plateau Health District, which includes Tazewell County, said next week will strictly be planning for the expansion.

"How we can best roll out vaccines to a large group of the population," Dr. Shelton said.

Dr. Shelton added that the state is looking at potential mass vaccination sites. But location isn't the only road block. The state is waiting for extra allocation of the vaccine to be able to provide for this new group.

"Keep in mind that the state of Virginia has been getting 100,000 vaccines per week," Dr. Shelton said. "And that number has not increased yet."

She said the department is asking for the public's patience right now.

WVVA will continue to follow vaccine distribution in Virginia, and we will update you when appointments for ages 65 and up become available.

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Hannah Howard

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