By Carol Vaughn —
Riverside Health System, starting Wednesday, Feb. 10, is offering the chance to make an appointment to get the COVID-19 vaccine to its patients age 65 and over who live in Virginia and were in active treatment with a Riverside specialty care provider on or after Jan. 1, 2020.
Before, only those older patients whose primary care provider was Riverside were eligible to be vaccinated by the health care system.
Riverside is capable of vaccinating 10,000 people a week but lacks supply to do so, according to a press release.
“Our strategy at this time is to vaccinate the oldest and most vulnerable first, based on supply,” the release said.
Since mid-December, Riverside Health System has received 54,150 doses. Of that, around 17,000 were Moderna and another 37,000 were Pfizer, Dr. Mike Dacey, chief operating officer and president of Riverside Health Systems, said Tuesday in a video update.
The numbers include the entire Riverside system, not just the Eastern Shore facilities.
Riverside redistributed 20,780 of the doses it received so far to private medical groups and for special clinics for essential workers, including an event on the Eastern Shore where 800 teachers were vaccinated.
Riverside itself administered 31,619 doses — around 6,000 of those went to Riverside employees and another 3,000 went to other health care workers.
Riverside patients have been administered 22,619 of the doses.
Virginia had around 60,000 doses left from the vaccination program for long-term care facilities; 8,600 of those extra doses were distributed to and administered by Riverside, Dacey said.
“We’ve utilized 97% of the vaccine that we’ve been given. … There are not a lot of states and health systems that can say that,” he said.
Of 54,000 doses in Riverside’s charge, only 14 went to waste — all 14 happened the first day of giving vaccinations, Dacey said.
Still, with Riverside currently receiving just 2,000 doses per week, it will take some time to vaccinate its approximately 80,000 eligible patients systemwide who are over 65.
At the current rate, if 70% of eligible patients choose to be vaccinated, it will take seven months.
“It really stretches well into the summer,” Dacey said, adding, “…Even though these appointments are opened up, we’ve still got a significant shortfall in supply, and so we ask for your patience in this,” Dacey said.
Women make up 63.3% of those vaccinated by Riverside so far, in part because a majority of health care workers are women.
Of the total, 38.6% of those vaccinated by Riverside in Phase 1A and up to now in Phase 1B were 75 or older, followed by 24.2% age 16 to 49, 20.1% age 65-74, and 17.1% age 50-64.
The younger age groups were largely frontline health care workers, Dacey said.
Seventy percent of those vaccinated so far are White.
“We need to work harder as a country, really, on improving this,” Dacey said.
In the United States, Black people are 1.4 times more likely to get COVID-19, 3.7 times more likely to be hospitalized as result, and 2.8 times more likely to die, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Latinos are 1.7 times more likely to get COVID-19, 4.1 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 2.8 times as likely to die.
“People are not completely certain why this is. It may be because people in these groups don’t have the right access to health care; it may be that their medical conditions aren’t treated as adequately as Caucasian people; it may be because of the hospitals that surround them. …In any case, it’s a problem,” Dacey said, adding Riverside has plans to, working with the health department, find ways to encourage minorities to be vaccinated.
Eligible Riverside patients will be notified by MyChart notification, email, and/or telephone when they can schedule an appointment to be vaccinated.
Riverside recommends patients sign up for a MyChart account if they do not already have one.
Go to https://mychart.riversideonline.com/MyChart/Authentication/Login? to sign up.
Additionally, all Riverside medical practices will have scheduling ability, Dacey said.
According to the release, Riverside is unable to accept phone calls to schedule vaccinations in order to keep phone lines clear for people with urgent and acute medical needs.
Riverside also is working with the health department to create outreach teams to reach out to vulnerable populations, Dacey said.
As of Wednesday, 5,118 vaccine doses have been administered in Accomack County and 621 people are fully vaccinated (two doses); 2,659 doses have been administered and 275 people are fully vaccinated in Northampton County, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
A total of 9,825 doses to date have come to the Eastern Shore.