State hopes to administer more COVID vaccine first doses

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WILMINGTON — About 60% of seniors who signed up for the state’s COVID-19 vaccine waiting list have yet to receive their first dose of the vaccine, said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health on Tuesday.

The DPH’s focus has been on second doses the last two weeks, running second-dose vaccination clinics at Delaware Technical Community College campus and a mass vaccination site at Dover International Speedway. The state plans to ramp up first doses by the end of the week, if supply permits.

“We are going to be able to focus much more of our allocation in the coming week than we did this week on first doses,” Dr. Rattay said. “We are looking forward to getting back to offering more first doses to Delaware seniors.”

According to Dr. Rattay, around 123,000 Delawareans have registered for the state’s waiting list for those 65 years old and older. Of those on the waiting list, an estimated 50,000 have received at least one vaccine and 73,000 have yet to receive their first dose.

Statewide, the DPH’s vaccine tracker is reporting a total of 182,427 doses administered, according to information in the state’s immunization system DelVAX as of Monday at 11:59 p.m. Dr. Rattay said about 129,000 of those doses have been first doses and an estimated 50,000 have been second doses.

The state expects the amount of second doses, particularly among seniors, to increase significantly, thanks in large part to the Dover International Speedway event, run via a partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which aims to fully vaccinate 19,000 seniors with second doses by the end of the week.

Dr. Rattay said after the state gets over this rush of second doses by the end of the mass vaccination clinic, there will be more Delawareans invited to vaccine opportunities for first doses.

“We vaccinated a lot of people in a two-week period of time in January,” Dr. Rattay said. “Right now we’re in that second-dose hump. By the end of this weekend, most individuals who came to any of our big events in January should have been able to find their second dose. We’re going to maintain people having access to second doses moving forward.”

Dr. Rattay said the DPH is planning for first doses to be available at some fixed sites, such as state service centers, and pop-up community sites, similar to the state’s current COVID-19 testing plan. Information on these sites will come in the near future.

The DPH is also mobilizing buses and vaccination teams to hit small-scale pop-up sites in underserved communities. It is still using one of its testing partners, Curative Inc., for vaccination clinics and expects to draw from the waiting list for first-dose appointments. Dr. Rattay said some spots for the Curative events will be set aside for leaders in underserved communities to invite individuals.

“We know not everyone has the access, the transportation, the communication, the connections to be served by these larger-scale vaccination events,” Dr. Rattay said. “But we must not leave these individuals behind.”

The ongoing FEMA event in Dover was originally reserved for only those who received first doses at one of the following events: Dover Division of Motor Vehicles on Jan. 16 through Jan. 18, Salesianum School in Wilmington on Jan. 18, Delaware City DMV on Jan. 22 through Jan. 24 and Georgetown DMV on Jan. 23 and 24.

However the state is expanding access, opening up appointment slots for Thursday and Friday for all Delawareans who received their first dose on Jan. 22 or earlier. Both the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will be available at the event.

“What we’re trying to do right now is to provide a location in the center of the state where there’s ample opportunities for the next few days for people to get that second dose,” said A.J. Schall, director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency.

“Come down here and get that second dose and take that worry of trying to find some place else to get it. We know it’s a supply and demand curve right now and we want to take advantage of this efficiency that we have here and the support we have for the next few days.”

Mr. Schall said DEMA observed an average time of 15 minutes from registration to vaccine administration during the FEMA event.

There are still spots available by registering online. Those without internet access may call the DPH at 1-833-643-1715 but should not call until after 11 a.m. as no appointments will be available until then. Wait time may be lengthy based on call volume and online registration is urged, the DPH said.

Scheduled appointments will be canceled for those who can be identified in state vaccination records as not receiving their first dose on or before Jan. 22.

Everyone who arrives to be vaccinated at the FEMA event must have an appointment. Dover International Speedway reported on-site traffic coordinators turned away more than two dozen vehicles on Tuesday who arrived in the lines without an appointment.

Mr. Schall said the state was aware of an issue regarding some individuals who received their first dose at the Georgetown DMV when the computer system was down. These individuals were wrongly told they could not receive an appointment while attempting to register for the FEMA event because their information was not in the state’s system.

These individuals will be able to receive a second dose at the FEMA event if they present the vaccination card they were given while at the Georgetown DMV.

“If we’re able to validate their card with their location on it, we will honor it and let them through,” Mr. Schall said. “We’re aware of it. We did get a few complaints through the vaccination mailbox, and I think we worked our way through it.”

Delaware received its largest shipment of COVID-19 vaccine on Monday as 29,250 doses were delivered to the state. This comes after weather forced delays for Delaware’s allotment for the entire week prior.

Delaware has received a combined total of 230,195 doses of vaccine with 191,300 doses shipped directly to the state and 38,895 doses as part of the Federal Pharmacy Program.