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Government

VDH announces new QR codes to verify COVID-19 vaccination status

A person vaccinated in Virginia can visit vaccinate.virginia.gov to obtain their free vaccination record with QR code, which can then be saved to a phone gallery, printed on paper, or stored in a compatible account.

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The Virginia Department of Health today announced the addition of QR codes – a type of barcode that can be scanned with smartphones – to Virginia COVID-19 vaccination records.

QR codes – short for “quick response” – are commonly used in retail, logistics, and other sectors. The technology allows anyone to show proof of vaccination with a digital or printed QR code instead of a paper card, and without the need for an app. As more and more employers and businesses respond to calls by President Biden and Governor Northam to require that employees and customers be vaccinated, QR codes will help improve the consistency and security of vaccination information while protecting individual privacy.

A person vaccinated in Virginia can visit vaccinate.virginia.gov to obtain their free vaccination record with QR code, which can then be saved to a phone gallery, printed on paper, or stored in a compatible account.

QR codes contain the same information as paper records, but in a format that offers greater security and efficiency. Because the QR code is digitally signed by the Virginia Department of Health, it cannot be altered or forged. Information from QR codes is only available if and when the individual chooses to share it. Businesses and employers that choose to verify an individual’s vaccination status can scan QR codes with the free SMART Health Verifier App. Individuals do not need to download an app to use QR codes.

Virginia is now the fifth U.S. state to adopt the SMART Health format for QR codes, empowering individuals with trustworthy and verifiable copies of their vaccination records in digital or paper form using open, interoperable standards. The framework and standards were developed by VCI, a coalition of more than 800 public and private organizations – including The Mayo Clinic, Boston Children’s Hospital, Microsoft, MITRE, and The Commons Project Foundation.

QR codes are available to anyone whose vaccination record includes a working phone number and is in the Virginia Immunization Information System (VIIS). Nearly all doses administered in Virginia are reported to VIIS, including pharmacies, physician offices, health department clinics, federally qualified health centers, and community vaccination centers. Some doses administered outside Virginia to Virginia residents may be in VIIS. Doses administered directly by federal agencies such as the Department of Defense or Department of Veterans Affairs are not reported to VIIS. A person whose record cannot be retrieved automatically may call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1) for assistance.

With more than 10.2 million doses of vaccine administered so far in Virginia, more than 58% of the population is fully vaccinated. Everyone 12 or older is eligible to be vaccinated now. To find free vaccines nearby, visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682, TTY users call 7-1-1). Assistance is available in English, Spanish, and more than 100 other languages.

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Trevor Dickerson is the co-founder and editor of RVAhub.com, lover of all things Richmond, and a master of karate and friendship for everyone.

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Government

Va. Supreme Court clears way for removal of Lee monument in Richmond

In two opinions issued Thursday, the Court denied challenges by a small group of neighbors and an heir to the family that initially granted the land for the monument.

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By Ned Oliver

The Supreme Court of Virginia cleared the way Thursday for Gov. Ralph Northam to remove the Lee Monument in Richmond, one of the largest Confederate memorials in the state.

In two opinions issued Thursday, the Court denied challenges by a small group of neighbors and an heir to the family that initially granted the land for the monument.

Northam announced he planned to take down the state-owned memorial in June 2020.

This is a breaking news update and will be updated as the situation develops.

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Community

Community Vaccination Hubs to Open in September

“These small hubs allow for folks to learn about events through word of mouth…communities know where we will be.” – Joanna Cirillo, Public Health Nurse Supervisor at RHHD

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From the Richmond Health District:

Starting in September, Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD) will open four COVID-19 vaccination hubs that will each operate weekly in the coming months. These four small hubs will supplement RHHD’s ongoing pop up events in partnership with large employers, faith communities, community organizations, and more.

The opening of the four hubs follows the closing of RHHD’s last mass vaccination site at George Wythe High School earlier this month. Hubs are located in Richmond’s downtown and southside and in eastern and western Henrico to provide access to multiple communities.

“What we learned throughout our vaccination efforts so far is that a combination of clinics at stable locations and pop up events with community outreach is helpful in creating vaccine access,” explains Joanna Cirillo, Public Health Nurse Supervisor at RHHD. “These small hubs allow for folks to learn about events through word of mouth…communities know where we will be.”

The clinic locations and times are as follows:

  • Tuesdays, 3:00 pm-6:00 pm (first clinic on September 7th): Second Baptist Church (3300 Broad Rock Blvd)
  • Wednesdays, 1:00 pm-4:00 pm: Henrico Recreation Center (1440 N Laburnum Ave)
  • Thursdays, 1:00 pm-4:00 pm: RHHD Downtown Location (400 E Cary St)
  • Fridays, 9:00 am-12:00 pm: RHHD Henrico West Location (8600 Dixon Powers Dr)

To learn more about all available COVID-19 vaccination opportunities, visit vax.rchd.com.

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Downtown

COVID-19 booster shots to roll out starting next month

Top U.S. health officials announced a plan Wednesday to begin offering COVID-19 booster shots to Americans starting Sept. 20, with the scheduling of the additional shot to be based on when a person was fully vaccinated.

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The new round of jabs will be extended to those who received the two-dose vaccine from either Pfizer or Moderna, and can be taken eight months after an individual’s second dose.

Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general, told reporters Wednesday that recent data makes clear that while the current COVID-19 vaccines have been highly effective against severe disease, hospitalization and death, the protection against mild and moderate disease has appeared to decrease over time.

“This is likely due to both waning immunity and the strength of the widespread delta variant,” Murthy said, adding that health officials are concerned that the decline in immunity could reduce protection against severe disease and death in the months ahead.

The more than 13 million Americans who received the one-dose shot from Johnson & Johnson may also need boosters, but will not yet be eligible.

“In Virginia, we are monitoring the situation and planning through all of the logistical considerations,” Virginia Vaccine Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula said in a statement Tuesday. “If booster vaccine doses are recommended for the general population, the rollout of those boosters will likely take place over several months, as the expected recommendation is that a booster dose should be given within a defined time frame after your second dose. VDH and local health departments now have experience in planning and carrying out the logistics of a large-scale vaccination effort, and rebooting that for booster doses will not be an issue. The infrastructure for administering the booster doses is already in place.”

Federal health officials said they are awaiting data from J&J in the next few weeks before urging additional doses. The J&J shot wasn’t approved until March, so those who received it will not hit eight months past inoculation until November.

The new booster rollout plan is subject to formal authorization from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine panel.

Those agencies will hold public meetings before the booster rollout can begin. But officials said they were detailing the booster plan ahead of those meetings in part to give state and local health officials time to prepare for another wave of vaccination logistics.

State and local health officials again under pressure

The plan for offering a third shot puts yet another layer of pressure on state and local health departments that have carried out the massive vaccination campaign.

Those officials are still seeking to boost vaccination rates that have lagged in certain regions amid skepticism and misinformation. Meanwhile, vaccine manufacturers are expected this fall to seek approval for administering shots to children under 12, who so far have not been eligible.

During Wednesday’s news briefing, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, cited several new studies that tracked vaccine effectiveness, including among New Yorkers across age groups and another following case counts from nursing homes.

Those studies have shown that protection against severe infection has held up but not against milder infections, she said, adding that other countries, such as Israel, also are starting to see “worsening outcomes.”

“In the context of all of these studies, different cohorts, different settings across the country, and our international colleagues, we’ve made the decision to plan for these booster doses,” Walensky said.

The booster shots will be available at roughly 80,000 sites nationally, including 40,000 local pharmacies. As with the other COVID-19 shots, the boosters will be free of charge.

The CDC had already approved a third COVID-19 shot for some immunocompromised individuals, who may not have received strong protection from the initial doses of the vaccine.

While the booster plan does not specifically mention other categories of individuals to receive a priority for boosters, the initial vaccine rollout did put certain groups first in line. So the first individuals to hit eight months after their second shot should be those in the earliest priority categories, such as health care workers and nursing home residents.

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Robert Zullo for questions: [email protected] Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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