During a news conference Tuesday at the new Stonebridge COVID-19 Vaccination Center, Jeff McKay, chairman of the Fairfax Board of Supervisors, said the facility will be opened by the end of March in anticipation of thousands of more COVID-19 vaccine doses becoming available in the coming weeks. There is no firm date opening date set.
“We had been told by the Virginia Department of Health repeatedly we are expecting a major increase in doses in the weeks and months ahead,” McKay said. “We want to make sure we have the infrastructure in place to take advantage of every single one of those doses.”
The facility is in the Victory Center on Eisenhower Avenue in Alexandria.
McKay said Fairfax has been receiving about 19,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses each week, up from 13,000 just a few weeks ago. According to McKay, as more COVID-19 vaccines become available, such as the one-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, those numbers will only go up.
“We are attacking this issue with every resource we have in Fairfax County,” he added.
The vaccination center is about 50,000 square feet, taking up the whole first floor. When it opens, the facility will be able to vaccinate 192 people every 15 minutes (or about 6,000 people in an eight-hour day), according to Inova.
McKay said Fairfax residents must pre-register to receive a vaccine through the Fairfax County Health Department, and non-Fairfax residents should preregister with Vaccinate Virginia, operated by the Virginia Department of Health. After someone preregisters they will receive an email from their health department with further instructions when it is time to schedule their vaccine appointment.
For now, it appears Fairfax and Alexandria residents are the only eligible groups to use the center and the vaccination group for now will be people ages 65-74 for Fairfax County. Fairfax will work with the City of Alexandria to vaccinate groups that best meet their needs, health officials said.
Individuals must have an appointment before coming to the new facility. There will be no walk-in vaccinations. It was not immediately clear whether the center would be opened to residents outside of Fairfax and Alexandria.
When an individual comes into the facility for an appointment they will wait in line, on dots spaced 6 feet apart, until prompted to receive their vaccine from a nurse or medical professional. A spokesperson for Inova said only two people will be allowed at each vaccination station, including a medical professional. Pharmacists will be standing by to answer questions patients might have, as well as emergency medical technicians to assist patients if they require medical attention.
The facility's operating hours will be flexible to accommodate everyone who has scheduled an appointment. After receiving the vaccine, individuals must wait 15 to 30 minutes in a designated waiting area to ensure they don't have an adverse reaction.
Dr. Stephen Jones, president and CEO of Inova Health, acknowledged during the news conference that there is skepticism among many people in the community about the vaccine. Jones noted that nothing is 100%, but the vaccines are too effective to be ignored.
“Critically, every single one of the currently available vaccines has been proven in studies to be 100% effective against severe COVID-19 and against 100% effective against fatality,” he added.
“I had no side effects when I had my own vaccination,” Jones added. “That's been the experience of almost everyone that's has had [the vaccine]. The only thing I experienced, was immense gratitude that I'm now 95% protected against COVID-19 and 100% protected against the possibility of fatality from this terrible disease."
According to the Virginia Department of Health, Fairfax residents have received a total of about 262,000 doses of vaccines, with about 96,000 fully vaccinated. That represents just under 10% of the county's population of just over 1 million residents. Alexandria city residents have been administered 36,000 total doses, with 13,000 fully vaccinated, representing just over 8% of Alexandria's population.