James F. Witko

Dr. James F. Witko, a pulmonologist with Sentara Halifax Regional Hospital takes the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine in December.

Halifax County residents 65 and older will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine distribution when the local health district advances into a new phase Monday.

The Southside Health District — an area that spans Halifax, Mecklenburg and Brunswick counties — is moving into what’s known as Phase 1b of the state’s vaccination plans.

There are no public clinics scheduled for people who fall in this priority group. Instead, residents must call 434-738-6545 to schedule an appointment. They will then be told where and when to go for these closed clinics.

Those calling that number likely will be met with delays because of an expected overwhelming call volume.

Phase 1b is the second group eligible to receive the vaccine that was approved in late December. It includes police, fire and hazmat response personnel; those living and working in correctional facilities, homeless shelters and migrant labor camps; childcare/K-12 teachers and staff; food and agriculture workers; manufacturers; grocery store workers; public transit workers; mail carriers; anyone 65 years and older; and those individuals 16-64 years with high-risk medical conditions.

Residents who fall in the Phase 1a group still will be provided opportunities to receive the vaccine. Those include health care professionals who come in contact with COVID-19 patients and residents and workers of long-term care facilities.

Neighboring Danville and Pittsylvania County also will shift into the next phase Monday. Some parts of the state started Phase 1b last week.

When advised where to go for the doses — there are two rounds administered weeks apart — individuals will be required to bring a personal form of identification such as a driver’s license and also may be asked to show proof of qualification, like a work ID, in order to verify eligibility.

Essential employees will be scheduled through their employers, the health department advised in a news release. Vaccination planning teams are reaching out to coordinate with employers in Phase 1b.

The closed clinics are only for those in the first two phases of the vaccination efforts. Health officials stress the vaccine is not available to the general population, and these aren’t public events.

“We are pleased to move to the next phase and to be able to provide a safe and effective vaccine to more people,” said Dr. Scott Spillmann, director of the Pittsylvania-Danville and Southside health districts. “But, as we enter Phase 1b, we will begin administering the second doses to those in 1a. We ask everyone to please be patient as we recruit as many contract staff and volunteers as we can to help with this.”

As more vaccines become available to the state, Virginia will move into other phases. The next group, Phase 1c, will include other essential workers.

The complete definitions of all phases, data and other information, are available online at www.vdh.virginia.gov/covid-19-vaccine.

Virginians who do not fall into priority phases will be offered the COVID-19 vaccine when it is more widely available, likely in the late spring or early summer. Once the vaccine is rolled out to the general public, distribution will be similar to the flu vaccine. People will be able to get the vaccine from a local pharmacy, primary care physician, federally qualified health center/free clinic, local health department or other participating clinics.

In the meantime, health officials stress it is important to remain vigilant in COVID-19 prevention.