Delaware residents got a one-two shot of good news about COVID-19 vaccines Tuesday.
The state announced it will open up vaccine waitlists April 6 to those 16 and older, and the Wilmington VA Medical Center said it is now be able to vaccinate all veterans, their spouses, caregivers and beneficiaries, starting Tuesday.
The state doesn’t expect to be able to immediately be able to meet the demand for shots the new rules will create, but having people registered helps them plan where, when and how many shots they can do at one time, officials said.
Gov. John Carney and others said Tuesday that the state is OKing registrations and the ability to get shots partly because the demand has slowed for them from the frenzied days of opening for those 65 and older, and because they were surprised more people age 50 and up did not register on the state site to get vaccine.
It’s also been difficult for pharmacies and others to determine who should be prioritized based on health risks, and opening up registration allows them to not have to deal with that, officials said.
At the same time, the state is getting much more vaccines, with 25,000 doses already arriving this week, and more going to pharmacies and the VA. Carney said in Tuesday’s weekly COVID-19 press conference that state has 102,252 doses to administer and hopes for more of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which only requires one shot.
“You want to keep enough flow so that you can move and fill up those appointments, and not have vaccines sitting on shelves,” Carney said.
How quickly people get shots will depend greatly on how much vaccine there is to be given, officials said.
The move announced Tuesday will allow those 16 and older to register with the state as well as pharmacies and community vaccination sites. However, Delaware physicians and other medical providers are asked to continue to focus only on people with underlying conditions and non-paid caregivers, not all comers.
Carney pointed out that this move by the state will beat President Joe Biden’s target date of May 1 for having vaccines available to everyone over the age of 15.
Those who register with pharmacy sites eventually are able to sign up for specific time slots. Those who register with the state have to be invited to a vaccination event and reply they are coming.
Carney and A.J. Schall Jr. director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, said that at the start of vaccinations, 5,000 slots would fill in an hour or two. Now it can take 24 hours and 10,000 invitations to fill those slots, they said.
Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health, said that even when younger people register, the state will continue to prioritize older people and those with underlying conditions. Those conditions now include substance use disorder, sickle cell disease, interstitial pulmonary disease and pulmonary hypertension.
“So if you’re a healthy 20-year-old, please do get on our waitlist when we open it up next week,” she said. “But we will be prioritizing … but we’ll continue to focus on those with chronic conditions and those who are older and waitlisted.”
As of Monday, Delaware providers had administered 439,391 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
That means more than 30 percent of Delaware’s population has received at least one shot; 96,517 seniors are fully vaccinated; 62,694 people under age 65 are fully vaccinated; 78% of seniors are fully or partly vaccinated; and 35% of those age 16 and up are fully or partly vaccinated.
The state release said:
- Beginning at 10 a.m. on April 6, Delawareans who are 16+ may register on the State of Delaware’s COVID-19 vaccination waiting list at vaccinerequest.delaware.gov.
- Pharmacies may also begin vaccinating Delawareans who are 16+ on Tuesday, April 6.
- Medical providers including primary care doctors, specialty providers and hospital systems will continue to vaccinate only Delawareans aged 16-64 with moderate- and high-risk medical conditions and disabilities and their unpaid caregivers.
- Teenagers who are 16 or 17 need to be sure they are getting the Pfizer vaccine. The others are not yet approved for those under 18. said Rattay.
The Wilmington VA Hospital said they are able to expand vaccinations because of the SAVE LIVES Act signed into law Tuesday by Biden. It expanded the VA’s legal authority to give shots to all veterans, regardless of their VA health care enrollment status, but the VA priority remains veterans enrolled in VA care.
Those who want to access vaccines through the VA should follow these guidelines:
- Veterans enrolled in VA health care can call 302-633-5200 to schedule appointments.
- Spouses and caregivers of veterans currently registered at Wilmington VAMC should report with the veteran and the veteran’s ID Card, spouse’s photo ID, marriage license and any other documentation proving eligibility to the Enrollment and Eligibility Office at the Wilmington VAMC at 1601 Kirkwood Hwy, Wilmington, Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
- Non-enrolled Veterans (and their spouses and caregivers): Non-enrolled veterans can report with photo ID and copy of DD-214 to the Enrollment and Eligibility Office at Wilmington VAMC Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Spouses of non-enrolled veterans should bring photo ID, copy of marriage license and any other documentation proving eligibility if they are interested in getting the vaccine After registration is complete, an appointment will be scheduled. Same-day appointments are available most times, but brief wait times may be encountered to accommodate those needing vaccinations.
More information on the expanded eligibility is available at www.wilmington.va.gov/services/covid-19-vaccines.asp.