Most booster shots against COVID-19 were put on hold over Labor Day weekend, as Fairfax County prepares for newly authorized vaccines designed to target omicron variants of the coronavirus.
Appointments for the updated boosters are expected to be available through the county’s Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS) by tomorrow (Wednesday), the Fairfax County Health Department confirmed to FFXnow.
Known as bivalent vaccines, the new shots from Pfizer and Moderna contain the original strain of COVID-19 as well as a component that can be found in the two most dominant omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, according to the Food and Drug Administration, which authorized the vaccines on Aug. 31.
As a result, the updated boosters will “provide better protection against COVID-19 caused by the omicron variant,” the FDA said.
However, as part of the new authorization, the emergency use authorizations for the existing Pfizer and Moderna boosters were suspended on Friday (Sept. 2). Both vaccines can still be used for the primary two-dose regimen, and the Pfizer vaccine can be used as a booster for kids aged 5 through 11.
For people 12 and older, though, the county health department ceased administering booster doses at its offices and clinic sites on Friday.
“We had a handful of booster appointments set for the past weekend and our Call Center team contacted these individuals to let them know that they could re-schedule appointments when the bivalent boosters arrived,” FCHD spokesperson Lucy Caldwell said.
The health department has ordered 12,900 Pfizer bivalent vaccines and 8,100 Moderna shots and “plans to begin vaccinating this week,” according to Caldwell.
Pfizer’s vaccine has been authorized for people aged 12 and older, and Moderna’s is for adults 18 and up. Eligibility for the doses begins at least two months after getting the primary vaccinations or the most recent booster.
Appointments for the updated boosters won’t be required, but they are recommended, given the limited initial supply. Shots will eventually become available at private medical offices, pharmacies and other locations in the community.
“We thank everyone for their patience,” Caldwell said. Read More
(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) More monkeypox cases have been reported in the Fairfax Health District than anywhere else in Virginia, as officials grapple with a national outbreak of the disease.
The district, which includes Fairfax County and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, has now seen 58 cases, as of Friday (Aug. 19), according to Virginia Department of Health data. That’s more than any region in the state other than Northern Virginia, which has 163 confirmed or probable cases overall.
All but two of the state’s monkeypox patients so far have been men. The median age is 32, and Black individuals account for the most cases at 92, or 37%, though cases have been recorded for every race and ethnicity.
While not on the level of COVID-19, the continued spread of the smallpox-like disease since Virginia reported its first case of the outbreak in late May has prompted some changes in how state and local health officials have responded.
Most recently, the Fairfax County Health Department introduced an online vaccine interest form on Wednesday (Aug. 17) that residents can fill out to determine their eligibility and potentially get in line for a vaccine appointment.
As of Friday, more than 300 people have submitted the survey, FCHD told FFXnow. Since the outbreak began, the department has administered 1,485 vaccinations, with partner organizations delivering another 171 doses.
“So far, the online screening form has been well received by people and has helped streamline the process,” FCHD spokesperson Lucy Caldwell said by email.
People can also see if they’re eligible for vaccination by contacting the department’s call center at 703-267-3511 between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.
According to Caldwell, the county has increased the availability of appointments by adding more clinic days at the Fairfax County and South County government centers, including a clinic on Saturdays at the former site.
While those remain the only sites for vaccinations, appointments can be made in person at the county’s health district offices during regular business hours.
With supplies still limited, the vaccine is only recommended right now for:
- People with a known exposure to someone with monkeypox (VDH updated its guidance to include this category today)
- People 18 and older who have sex with men and have had more than one or anonymous sexual partners within the past 14 days
- Sex workers
- Staff or patrons of establishments where sexual activity occurs, such as bathhouses and sex clubs
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that the vaccine be given within four days of when a person is exposed to the disease to prevent them from contracting it.
FCHD says it is preparing to administer smaller doses of the approved JYNNEOS vaccine, “which will stretch vaccine supply several-fold while maintaining a good immune response and vaccine safety,” as authorized by the Food and Drug Administration on Aug. 9.
Nationwide, there have been 14,115 monkeypox cases in the ongoing outbreak, with more than 1,000 each reported in New York, California, Florida, Georgia and Texas.
Graph via CDC
Fairfax County’s COVID-19 community level has dropped from “medium” to “low,” as anticipated based on a steady decline in case numbers over the past month.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed the county’s community level with its weekly update on Thursday (Aug. 11), as its case rate of 187.71 cases per 100,000 residents dipped below the 200 mark for the first time since early May.
However, with an estimated 94 new COVID-19 patients admitted last week, the county is seeing 8.4 new admissions per 100,000 residents, and 5.2% of staffed, inpatient beds are being used by people with the disease. While those numbers have stayed in “low” range since the CDC revised its metrics, hospitalizations have been steadily rising since April.
“The Fairfax County Health District is now listed as ‘low’ community level — which is good news — and we are grateful to our community for continuing to take precautions to get us to this level,” the Fairfax County Health Department said by email. “However, as viruses mutate and change, it would not be unusual for the community level to fluctuate.”
With 195 new cases reported today (Monday), the Fairfax Health District is averaging 288.1 cases per day for the past week, continuing a decline that extends back to July 14, according to Virginia Department of Health data.
The district’s testing positivity rate has also taken a downward turn in the past week, dipping from a summer high of 22.8% on Aug. 4 to 19.6%, as of Aug. 11.
The district, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, has now totaled 232,235 Covid cases, 4,857 hospitalizations, and 1,592 deaths during the pandemic. Fourteen of those deaths were recorded in the past week — an average of two per day.
The shift in Fairfax County’s community level comes as the state and county health departments reassess their testing, isolation and quarantine guidelines in the wake of the CDC changing its guidance on Thursday. Read More
A fourth vaccine has entered the fight against COVID-19.
The Gaithersburg-based company Novavax received an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration earlier this month for a two-dose vaccination designated for unvaccinated people 18 and older.
The Fairfax Health District, which includes Fairfax County and cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, will get a portion of the 20,800 doses allocated to Virginia, the Fairfax County Health Department confirmed to FFXnow.
Supplies are expected to arrive in mid-August, the Virginia Department of Health said on Friday (July 22) after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the new vaccine its recommendation.
“The Novavax vaccine contains a very small amount of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, which elicits an immune response, in combination with an adjuvant, which boosts the immune system response to the vaccine,” VDH said. “…The Novavax COVID-19 vaccine offers an option to individuals who may have an allergic reaction to mRNA vaccines or who have a personal preference for receiving a vaccine other than one based on the mRNA technology.”
According to the FDA, trial data showed that the vaccine is 90.4% effective at preventing illness from the coronavirus.
Possible side effects included pain or tenderness, redness and swelling at the injection site, fatigue, muscle pain, headache, joint pain, nausea or vomiting, and fever. There was also evidence for increased risks of the same heart inflammation issues that have been reported with the mRNA vaccines.
The vaccine’s two doses will be delivered three weeks apart. It will only be available to people who haven’t gotten any shots yet, since it hasn’t been authorized for third or booster doses.
“When it becomes available, visit vaccinate.virginia.gov to find an appointment for the Novavax vaccine,” the county health department said. “The vaccine will be free and available to everyone aged 18 years or older who is eligible.” Read More
A Greenbriar East Elementary School health aide has been indicted on charges for stealing students’ medication, according to the Fairfax County police.
Former Fairfax County Health Department employee Jennifer Carpenter, 45, of Fairfax falsified documentation on prescription medication she gave students, according to a press release. Carpenter dispensed sugar placebo pills and over-the-counter medicine in place of narcotics — including Ritalin, Adderall, and Focalin — that police believe she was keeping for personal use.
During the investigation, detectives identified seven students at the Fair Lakes area school whose medicine was being abused, police said.
Detectives began investigating on May 27 after a health department supervisor noticed a discrepancy in the amount of medication several students maintained at the school, the release said.
Carpenter was indicted on seven counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor; two separate counts of unlawful possession of controlled substances; one count of obtaining drugs by fraud, deceit, misrepresentation, embezzlement, or subterfuge; and one count of unlawful dispension of a drug in place of another without permission of the person ordering/prescribing.
In a statement, FCPD Criminal Investigations Division Commander Captain Frederick Chambers said:
As parents, we have an expectation that a person in a position of trust will care for our children. When that trust is broken, we can feel betrayed. Thanks to the swift notification of the health department and schools, our detectives were able to immediately begin their investigation when the discrepancy was noticed. We will continue to hold anyone who abuses their position of power accountable for their actions.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Steven Descano called Carpenter’s actions a “gross breach of trust” in a statement.
“This situation could have easily evolved into a medical emergency for any of the children affected,” the statement reads.
This morning, CA Descano announced the indictment of Jennifer Carpenter on two counts of possession of schedule I or II drugs, one count of adulterated or misbranded drugs, and seven counts of contributing to the delinquency or abuse of a child. pic.twitter.com/YHiaBp9vb2
— Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Descano (@FairfaxCountyCA) July 21, 2022
If convicted, Carpenter faces a sentence of three to 32.5 years in prison, and up to $25,000 in fines, Descano said.
Police ask anyone with information about the case to call 703-591-0966. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through Crime Solvers by phone – 1-866-411-TIPS (866-411-8477), and by web.
Photo via Greenbriar East/Facebook
More than 1 million residents of the Fairfax Health District have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The milestone in the roughly 19-month-long vaccination campaign came within the past week, according to the Fairfax County Health Department, which puts the current count at 1,001,144 people, or 84.6% of the population. The health district encompasses Fairfax County and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church.
The breakdown by age group is as follows:
- 92.7% of people 18 and older
- 98.9% of 16-17 year olds
- 95.1% of 12-15 year olds
- 61.1% of 5-11 year olds
The dashboard doesn’t list a percentage for kids under 5, who became eligible for the shots last month.
As of today (Monday), 910,685 district residents are fully vaccinated — 76.9% of the population, including 85.1% of adults.
The Virginia Department of Health reports slightly higher vaccination numbers, showing that 1,004,820 residents in Fairfax County alone have gotten at least one dose.
“We get our vaccination coverage data from the VA Immunization Information System (VIIS),” a county health department spokesperson told FFXnow by email. “VDH gets additional data on Fairfax County residents who receive their vaccination in other states and therefore don’t have the data included in VIIS.”
For the sake of consistency, FFXnow has generally reported vaccination data from the county, which provides information for the whole district and for more specific age groups.
COVID-19 cases in the district continue to stay fairly steady, with no clear indication of a coming surge or decline.
With 236 new cases reported today, the district is averaging 423.3 cases per day for the past week, per VDH data. The seven-day average has hovered between 370 and 455 cases since June 10.
The district’s testing positivity rate is still elevated at 21% — up from the 16.1% recorded on June 18.
Reporting 270.06 cases and 6.3 new hospital admissions per 100,000 residents, Fairfax County is still seeing a “medium” level of COVID-19 in the community, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 4.2% of staffed, inpatient hospital beds are currently being used by patients with the disease.
As of last Wednesday (July 13), the county saw an estimated 72 people admitted to a hospital for COVID-19 in the preceding week, a 16.7% increase from the previous seven days.
In total, there have been 222,694 COVID-19 cases, 4,730 hospitalizations, and 1,553 deaths among Fairfax Health District residents since the pandemic spread to the area in March 2020.
More than two years into the pandemic, Fairfax County is settling into a more stable approach to COVID-19 testing.
The Fairfax County Health Department will now support free testing at six established sites through a new partnership with the contractor Curative. The mobile lab launched today (Tuesday) in Centreville and Bailey’s Crossroads and will rotate between two sites per day throughout each week.
“This is basically an expansion of our mobile test offerings,” FCHD spokesperson Lucy Caldwell said by email.
With demand fluctuating over the course of the pandemic, Virginia has shifted between mass testing and smaller, mobile sites. Fairfax County introduced a mobile laboratory after the delta variant arrived last fall.
The county had been deploying its mobile lab to a variety of locations, but there were only two regularly used sites, according to Caldwell.
Curative’s vans will follow a fixed schedule, with all clinics running from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.:
Tuesdays and Fridays
- Centreville Library: 14200 St. Germain Drive, Centreville
- Bailey’s Community Center: 5920 Summers Lane, Falls Church
Wednesdays and Saturdays
- Richard Byrd library: 7250 Commerce St., Springfield
- Groveton Baptist Church: 6511 Richmond Highway, Alexandria
Thursdays and Sundays
- New Grand Mart: 6255 Little River Turnpike, Alexandria
- James Lee Community Center: 2855 Annandale Road, Falls Church
No registration or appointment is necessary, and Curative doesn’t require users to present identification, according to a flyer. It also promises no out-of-pocket costs for the PCR tests, whose results are supposed be returned within one to two days.
The county health department recommends that people get tested for COVID-19 if they experience symptoms, have come in close contact with someone who tested positive, and before and after traveling.
As of June 30, the Fairfax Health District’s Covid testing positivity rate had jumped to 20% — its highest point since Jan. 22 — while the weekly average number of encounters has dropped to 1,652 per day.
The FCHD also provides testing at its district offices and the Joseph Willard Health Center. Additional PCR testing options can be found through the Virginia Department of Health, and rapid, at-home test kits are available at pharmacies and other retailers.
The federal government is also now delivering up to 16 free at-home tests per household.
Monkeypox hasn’t established a huge presence in Virginia, but it’s starting to make a little bit of noise, as the U.S. moves to contain an outbreak.
With five additional infections identified Wednesday (June 29), the Commonwealth has now reported a total of eight cases of the disease, six of them in the Northern region. The first case was confirmed in a Northern Virginia woman on May 27.
The Fairfax County Health Department declined to confirm whether any of the cases so far have been in the Fairfax Health District, which includes the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church.
“At this time, the Virginia Department of Health is limiting the sharing of geographic case data to the regional level to ensure patient confidentiality,” FCHD spokesperson Lucy Caldwell said by email. “However, the FCHD is committed to providing up-to-date information on this virus on our county website and will continue to share information as the situation evolves.”
A rare disease caused by a virus in the same family as the smallpox virus, monkeypox poses a low risk of infection to the general public, and a full-blown pandemic like COVID-19 is considered extremely unlikely, according to health experts.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the first human case of monkeypox was recorded in 1970, and since then, the disease has been almost exclusively found in central and west Africa — until this year, when it has spread to Europe, South America, and other areas that don’t typically see cases.
The first confirmed U.S. case in the outbreak was announced on May 18. Officials are investigating the source of the infections, including why a high number of cases so far have been among men who have sex with men, though anyone who is exposed is at risk.
Per the Fairfax County Health Department, the monkeypox virus spreads through broken skin, respiratory tracts and “mucous membranes,” such as the eyes, nose, or mouth. Exposure can come from close contact with an infected person or animal as well as objects and surfaces they have touched.
Symptoms typically emerge six to 14 days after exposure, sometimes in the form of a fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, or exhaustion. Patients then develop a rash that generally lasts for two to four weeks.
There are no existing treatments specifically for monkeypox, but the county health department advises anyone who is sick or has symptoms to seek medical care from a health care provider.
There are two licensed smallpox vaccines in the U.S. that data indicates are effective at preventing monkeypox infections, according to the CDC.
The FCHD says it has gotten “a handful of requests” for vaccinations, but in Virginia, their availability through local health departments is currently limited to individuals who know they have been exposed to a confirmed case.
“We do have a small amount in order to provide it to individuals with known exposure to cases if/when we need to,” Caldwell wrote.
Fairfax Health District residents can call the county health department at 703-246-2433 or email email@example.com if they think they have been exposed or are seeking more information about the vaccines.
The federal Department of Health and Human Services announced earlier this week that it will deliver 296,000 doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine in the coming weeks, using a tiered system to allocate supplies to areas with the highest levels of transmission and need.
The national vaccination campaign is expected to make 1.6 million doses available this year.
The Virginia Department of Health said in this week’s news release that it is “actively working with our federal partners to make these services more accessible for Virginians.”
(Updated at 11:30 a.m. on 6/28/2022) The Fairfax Health District reported a small uptick in COVID-19 cases over the past week, while the availability of vaccines for the area’s youngest residents expanded.
With more than 500 new cases reported on three different days last week, the district — which includes Fairfax County and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church — saw its seven-day average rise from 378 cases on June 19 to 429 cases today (Monday), according to Virginia Department of Health data.
The district has also seen a sharp jump in its testing positivity rate over that time frame, from 16% on June 18 to 18% as of Thursday (June 23). The average number of people getting PCR tests for Covid each day has declined by over 1,000 encounters since May 24.
The Fairfax County Health Department’s COVID-19 dashboard suggests the increase in cases could reflect a data reporting backlog, with adjustments being made “over the next several weeks” since June 14.
Regardless, the current case levels are still below the weekly average of 601 cases recorded on May 25 — the high mark for the spring — and the all-time high of 2,590 cases from Jan. 13.
With a case rate of 231.19 per 100,000 residents, Fairfax County is still seeing a “medium” community COVID-19 level, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An estimated 75 new Covid patients were admitted to a hospital last week through Thursday, a 13.8% drop from the previous seven days.
With 249 cases added today, the Fairfax Health District has reported 213,845 COVID-19 cases, 4,635 hospitalizations, and 1,529 deaths during the pandemic.
Since Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines for kids under 5 became available last Tuesday (June 21), clinics at the Fairfax County Government Center and South County Hyland Center have administered shots to over 1,600 children aged 6 months through 4 years old, the county health department says.
That includes kids from other jurisdictions, along with the Fairfax Health District, which was the first place in Northern Virginia to start offering the new vaccinations.
After initially reaching capacity and reporting long waits at its clinics, complicated by a lag in the federal Vaccine Administration Management System updating to include the newest age group, FCHD says the appointment process is now “working smoothly.”
The vaccines have also become more widely available from other localities, including Arlington and the City of Alexandria, as well as pediatricians, family practices, and other private medical providers.
“Pediatricians and family practices (and other local jurisdiction health departments) started to receive and provide vaccinations later in the week,” FCHD spokesperson Lucy Caldwell told FFXnow by email. “But it is too soon to tell how much of an impact this will have on our clinics.”
While data on how many Fairfax Health District residents under 5 have gotten a shot isn’t available right now, Caldwell notes that the expansion of vaccine eligibility to that age group has inspired many parents and older siblings to get a booster shot while at the county’s clinics.
According to FCHD’s most recent data, 92.7% of all kids over age 12 in the district have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 84.6% have had two doses. In addition, 61% of children aged 5-11 have received one dose, and 54.5% have received two doses.
Overall, 997,091 Fairfax Health District residents — or 84.2% of the population — have gotten at least one vaccine dose, including 92.9% of adults 18 and older. About 908,859 residents, or 76.8%, are fully vaccinated, including 84.9% of adults.
(Updated at 3:05 p.m.) The Fairfax County Government Center’s COVID-19 vaccine site has reached capacity for the day, as families across Northern Virginia rush to get their youngest kids inoculated.
The Fairfax County Health Department announced just before noon that it’s no longer accepting new appointments at the government center today (Wednesday), citing the high demand.
The county was among just a handful of places in Northern Virginia to make the newly authorized vaccines for kids under 5 available as soon as yesterday (Tuesday), according to FCHD spokesperson Lucy Caldwell.
Neighboring Arlington County, for example, only made them available today and is requiring scheduled appointments.
“We are delighted with the demand we’ve seen so far,” Caldwell told FFXnow, noting that the government center has been “very popular” over the past two days. “Our county health department staff have planned for this for months.”
With the health department’s current staffing levels, the government center has the capacity to administer 500 to 600 shots per day.
The county is also offering both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines for young kids at its South County Government Center clinic (8350 Richmond Highway). Walk-ins at both sites are welcome, but FCHD warns that it is seeing long wait times for walk-in service.
Due to high demand, we have reached capacity and are not accepting new appointments at our main Government Center site today. We are accepting walk-ins at our COVID-19 vaccine clinics, however we are seeing long wait times for walk-in service. We appreciate your patience. pic.twitter.com/1HeOJBF9tc
— FairfaxCounty Health (@fairfaxhealth) June 22, 2022
In general, COVID-19 vaccine appointments can be scheduled through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vaccine Administration Management System, but federal staff have run into some issues with updating the system to reflect the latest expansion of eligibility, according to FCHD.
“We are waiting for those updates to be made and have been told they will be in place this evening,” Caldwell said.
The Food and Drug Administration and CDC gave their support to Moderna and Pfizer’s Covid vaccines for kids as young as 6 months of age last week, opening eligibility for vaccination up to nearly 69,000 more Fairfax Health District residents.
The Moderna vaccine is for kids up to 6 years old and requires two doses spaced four to eight weeks apart. Pfizer’s three-dose regimen is targeted toward kids up to 5 years old.
While the shots are also being delivered to pediatric offices, private medical providers, and some retail pharmacies, Caldwell says the county health department clinics have seen many people who got put on their pediatrician’s waitlist “but tell us they do not want to wait.”
Anecdotally, the government center has also gotten visitors from across Northern Virginia, not just the Fairfax Health District, which covers the county and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church.
“They are telling us that they are eager and ready to vaccinate their little ones now and they’ve been waiting long enough,” Caldwell said.
According to FCHD data updated at 10:30 a.m., 996,500 Fairfax Health District residents, or 84.2% of the population, have gotten at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot, including 92.9% of adults.
While the dashboard doesn’t yet include data for kids under 5, the county health department says its two sites delivered shots to 338 children between 6 months and 5 years of age yesterday. The clinics also administered primary or booster doses to 99 adults.
“Today, as of 2:45, we have done 323 children between 6 months and 5 years already,” Caldwell told FFXnow, noting that an additional 80 adults received primary series and booster shots.