COVID-19: Vaccines are Here

Page updated on Mar 3, 2021 at 9:56 AM
vaccination at TC Williams High School

Protect Yourself from COVID-19: Get Vaccinated!

There are safe, effective, and free COVID-19 vaccines that can save your life. If enough people get vaccinated, we can fight unemployment, keep schools open, and get back to normal. Vaccine supplies are limited, but you qualify right now if you:

  • Are 65+ years old
  • Have existing medical conditions
  • Work in one of these jobs:
    Healthcare • Police, Fire and Hazmat • Corrections and homeless shelter workers • Childcare and K-12 teachers and staff • Agriculture • Manufacturing • Grocery store workers • Public transit workers • Mail carriers (USPS and private) • Officials needed to keep government working • Cleaning/Janitorial staff • Faith Leaders
Pre-Register for Vaccine Waitlist

Virginia Department of Health (VDH) Eligibility Groups In Depth: Phase 1a - Phase 1b

Vaccine Flowchart Step 1 imageGetting a COVID-19 Vaccine in Alexandria

Follow these six easy steps to get the vaccine from the Alexandria Health Department (AHD).


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Why Should I Get the Vaccine?

Because it's effective. Because it's safe. Because it's free. Because ending the pandemic depends on most of us getting vaccinated. 


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Are COVID-19 Vaccines Safe?

Vaccines are one of the safest and most effective ways to save lives, protect your loved ones, and help everyone return to normal.


How Will I Receive an Appointment?

Once you have pre-registered to receive the vaccine, AHD will notify you when appointment slots are available via email or phone. Emails will come from Calls will come from 703.746.4988 or 703.746.4985. This notification may take weeks or even months. It will take time, but everyone who wants to be vaccinated will have the opportunity.

Second Dose Appointments

Second dose vaccine appointments are underway. If you received your first dose from AHD, you will be contacted  to make your next appointment.

COVID-19 Vaccine Elderly Couple with MasksVaccine Prioritization

Vaccine supply remains extremely limited; Alexandria will be receiving fewer than 2,000 first doses per week. More than 35,000 people have pre-registered.

This forces AHD to prioritize our most vulnerable populations, including:

  • Senior over 65
  • Essential frontline workers
  • People 16-64 with underlying medical conditions

To ensure our most vulnerable residents have access to vaccines, AHD first contacts people in the 16-64 group who live in Alexandria’s 13 census tracts with the highest social vulnerability score on the CDC's Social Vulnerability Index. The Index uses 15 social factors, including poverty, race/ethnicity status, speaking English "less than well," and crowded housing, to help identify the residents that may be disproportionately burdened by COVID-19. This CDC data aligns with findings of health inequities in AHD's monthly ZIP code analysis of COVID-19 cases and the City of Alexandria's 2019 Community Health Assessment.

Residents in the priority census tracts will be contacted first, but AHD will continue to contact people in all other eligible groups and census tracts from the pre-registration list in the order they signed up.

Long-Term Care Facility Staff and Residents

Long-term care facilities (LTCF) are working with the federal government Pharmacy Partnership Program to vaccinate staff and residents against COVID-19. Those with loved ones in LTCFs should contact the facility to ensure they have all required paperwork on record.

Vaccine Partners

AHD encourages health care providers (private providers and pharmacies) who are interested in vaccinating their patients to become a COVID-19 vaccine provider. The first step is for the health care practice to complete Virginia Department of Health’s COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Intent Form. As more vaccine becomes available, those health care providers will be eligible to receive free COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccine Doses Will Be Free

Vaccine doses purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given to the American people at no cost. However, vaccination providers will be able to charge an administration fee (around $20) for administering the vaccine to someone. Some providers, such as the Alexandria Health Department, will waive this fee.

COVID-19 Vaccines Virtual Panel Discussion

Watch a panel discussion of local medical experts, civic leaders and community leaders discussing vaccine safety, efficacy, availability and eligibility; and answering questions received from the Alexandria community.

The panel discussion was recorded on January 23, 2021, and is also available in Spanish, Amharic and Arabic using the playlist selector menu in the video player below.

How Do Vaccines Work?

Most vaccines -- including the current COVID-19 vaccine candidates -- work by triggering the body’s immune system to make antibodies that fight the virus without causing an active infection.

Essentially, vaccines teach the body to recognize the coronavirus and fight it. Most of the vaccines in Phase 3 clinical trials require two shots a few weeks apart; the first shot starts building protection and the second maximizes the protection. Building immunity can take several weeks, and individuals can still become infected with COVID-19 if they are exposed to it while in the process of receiving vaccines. Some individuals may experience temporary effects including fever and body aches which last a day or two and are the body’s normal response to developing immunity to a virus. It is not the COVID-19 infection. Vaccination will not lead to infection of COVID-19 and it will not cause a positive test result. Someone who has recovered from COVID-19 could potentially be reinfected, so they may also benefit from a vaccine. More studies will determine the duration of the vaccine’s effectiveness.

There are three types of COVID-19 vaccines in the final stages of clinical trial, and they could soon be approved by the FDA for distribution. Each vaccine uses a slightly different approach to develop immunity to the COVID-19 virus, but they all involve harmless proteins that teach the body to fight the virus in the future.

  • Protein subunit vaccines contain harmless particles of the virus

  • mRNA vaccines contain material from the virus to enable cells to make harmless proteins that will stimulate the immune system

  • Vector vaccines contain a weakened version of a virus (different than the one that causes COVID-19) which has material from the virus that causes COVID-19 inserted into it and produces a harmless protein

Learn more about how vaccines work in this two-minute video.

How Were the COVID-19 Vaccines Developed and Proven to be Safe?

Clinical development for vaccines is a three-phase process. Learn more about the process at a glance 

  • During Phase I, small groups of people receive the trial vaccine to help determine safety and side effects.
  • In Phase II, the clinical study is expanded and the vaccine is given to people who have characteristics (such as age and physical health) similar to those for whom the new vaccine is intended. The purpose of Phase II is to identify the optimal dose and schedule of the vaccine and how it impacts various groups of the population. In the case of COVID-19 vaccines, Phase II trials in the U.S. should have a demographic makeup similar to that of the country, spanning a wide range of ages, races, ethnicities, and any other factors that would affect risk and efficacy.
  • In Phase III, the final formulation of the vaccine is given to thousands of people and tested for efficacy and safety. During clinical development, a trial vaccine’s effectiveness is determined by comparing outcomes of patients who have received it with outcomes of patients who received the placebo.

Vaccine Safety Steps

In the U.S., the findings from clinical trials are presented to and reviewed by the FDA. The FDA also inspects manufacturing facilities to ensure safety and reviews product labels to ensure clarity. After approving a vaccine, the FDA continues to monitor and oversee its production to ensure that all safety protocols are followed. In addition, many vaccines undergo Phase IV formal and ongoing studies after the vaccine is approved and licensed. The FDA and CDC also collect and analyze information from reports of any side effects that may occur after a vaccine has been licensed.

In summary, before a new vaccine is available to the public, it has been given to thousands of people under stringent monitoring for safety and effectiveness. Sometimes, very rare side effects are recognized only after the vaccine is licensed because they occur so infrequently, but such side effects are very rare and must be weighed against the benefits the vaccine will provide.

How Can I Receive More Information?

This website will continue to be updated as more information about COVID-19 vaccines become available. Bookmark this page, sign up for the City’s eNews, and check the CDC’s website for more information.

COVID-19 vaccines are just one way to shield our community from illness. Just like cars include seat belts, airbags, backup cameras, blind spot cameras, and more, a COVID-19 protection plan for Alexandria must include masks, limited gatherings, physical distancing, contact tracing and all the other methods that have been in place since March.

Combination Prevention