New registration system to aid COVID-19 vaccination process

George Copeland Jr. | 12/31/2020, 6 p.m.
Local health officials announced a new initiative to help with management of the COVID-19 vaccines.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from Patricia Cummings on Tuesday. She and her husband, Doug Emhoff, were vaccinated at United Medical Center in Southeast Washington. It is the only public hospital in Washington and offers community-based services to area residents who are mostly African-American and have lower incomes than the rest of D.C. Photo by Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press/Pool

Local health officials announced a new initiative to help with management of the COVID-19 vaccines.

VAMS, or the Vaccine Administration Management System, is an online scheduling tool created by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure proper vaccine administration.

Using a valid email address, enrollees in the system will be required to provide their name, date of birth, address and other personal information. This includes information such as race or ethnicity, gender, known allergies and any current health conditions.

Once registered and the vaccines become more widely avail- able, those enrolled will be able to access a map of vaccine providers and schedule appointments for the first and second doses. Vaccine providers also will be able to use VAMS to track which brand of vaccine a person has received so that he or she receives the same brand during the second dose.

Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require two doses 21 days apart. According to a VAMS fact sheet, people must be enrolled in VAMS by an employer, health care provider or other authorized organization before they can register their personal information. However, that may change once the vaccine is more widely available.

VAMS is just one of several methods through which Virginia residents are able to receive a coronavirus vaccine, according to Dr. Melissa A. Viray of the Richmond City Health District.

It’s also only one system state and local officials are using to coordinate the vaccine process, with all systems feeding into the Virginia Immunization Information System.

“When we think about how individuals will get vaccinated, it may occur through a variety of methods. You may be asked to register through VAMS, you may be contacted and asked to schedule an appointment date, or you may be asked to register at the time you come in for a vaccination,” Dr. Viray said in an email. “All of these are being used to an extent.”

Dr. Viray’s explanation of VAMS answers some of the questions about how the vaccination process will work. According to the plan, health care workers and residents and staff in long-term care facilities are to be vaccinated first, followed by essential workers, including teachers, and adults 65 and older and those at high risk. The general public would be in the next phase, possibly beginning in late spring or early summer, Dr. Viray said.

There is no cost for the vaccine or for VAMS registration, officials said.

As of Wednesday, a total of 54,295 vaccine doses have been administered statewide, while 285,725 total doses have been distributed to health districts throughout the Commonwealth, officials said. No one in Virginia has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with the two required doses.

VAMS and other systems will enable local health districts to ensure their plans for vaccination are implemented safely and equitably, officials said.

VAMS “allows the health district to continue to vaccinate citizens according to our prioritization plan,” said Dr. Viray, who noted that the city health district has made sure local safety-net providers have access to the vaccine for employees so that work with the region’s vulnerable communities isn’t impeded.

More information about VAMS and the COVID-19 vaccine is available online at www.rchd.com or by calling (804) 205-3501.