COVID-19 vaccines now are available for the general public in the New River Health District, including Virginia Tech students.

The move to Virginia’s second vaccination phase comes as coronavirus cases continue to decline in the district, said Noelle Bissell, the district’s health director on Monday during a meeting with news media.

The decline is a reason for “cautious optimism” in the midst of the pandemic, she said.

“That light at the end of the tunnel’s really getting brighter for us,” she said.

As of Monday, since December, a total of 96,704 vaccines have been delivered to New River Valley residents, and 41,619 people are fully vaccinated, Bissell said.

The district is hosting vaccination clinics throughout the New River Valley, though they continue to be offered by appointment only due to inconsistent supplies and high demand. 

People may sign up for a vaccine through Virginia’s pre-registration system or for a specific clinic spot at the district’s website.

Everyone who receives a first dose of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines can receive the second dose through the district, Bissell said.

Currently, the district is administering the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. There is a shortage in the state of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Bissell encouraged people to take whichever vaccine is available to them. Those who want the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will have to wait until the supply opens up.

“It’s more important to get more doses in arms than it is which vaccine you get,” Bissell said. “They are all equally effective in the big metrics, preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death.”

Although more people are receiving vaccines, the community still should wear masks in public, avoid crowded areas, and wash their hands regularly to help prevent the virus’ spread.

“Our disease burden in the community is down, but it’s not non-existent,” Bissell said. “COVID-19 is still out there.”

— Written by Jenny Kincaid Boone

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