The rush to get leftover doses at CVS or wait for a new round of vaccine appointments to drop on the pharmacy’s website at 6 a.m. are in the past for 342 Virginia locations now offering walk-ins.
CVS spokesperson Amy Thibault said the remaining nine stores offering vaccinations are expected to join soon.
Announced Wednesday by the national chain, the change means there’s no longer a need for an appointment. Another option available is same-day scheduling, where residents can access a shot within an hour. Individuals can choose among Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
As of 4 p.m., only 38 of the 118 localities with CVS stores offering vaccinations were fully booked.
While Richmond, Henrico and Chester had vaccines available, there are currently no locations offering vaccines in South Richmond or along the Route 1 corridor, which has one CVS pharmacy. Both are areas with major Black, Latino and immigrant populations that have consistently experienced high COVID rates in the past year.
On Google Maps, a scattered few in the area and in Petersburg show the ability to make an appointment, but the link only redirects people to the website, where those locations are not found.
Currently, there is no list outlining which locations are taking walk-ins and which are not. The CVS vaccine landing page’s FAQ still states appointments are required to receive a vaccine.
Most pharmacies allowing walk-ins—such as Walmart and Sam’s Club, which announced Tuesday that appointments won’t be necessary for 149 Virginia locations—don’t have a list and require making an account to schedule, a potential barrier for people with limited internet access.
Sam’s Club is the only one to not offer Spanish translations on their site. Thibault said for non-English speaking patients at CVS, there are options to connect with an interpreter in 15 languages, including Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean.
To reach high-risk communities, national chains have partnered with community organizations to conduct mobile clinics, pop-up events and smaller sites—falling in line with President Joe Biden’s directive on Tuesday for thousands of pharmacies in the federal partnership to offer walk-in appointments.
Dr. Cheryl Pegus, Walmart’s vice president for health and wellness, said in a company statement that with supply and eligibility expanding, focusing on underserved populations to ensure equitable distribution has become “even more important.”
“Widespread vaccination is the only way we will eventually end the pandemic and help our country reopen,” Pegus said. “And we don’t want anyone to get left behind as we enter this new chapter in our fight against COVID-19.”
Dr. Danny Avula, the state’s vaccine coordinator, said Friday that as Virginia reaches a peak in demand, convenience will be a critical factor in vaccinating as many residents as possible. Shifting more vaccines toward primary care providers or walk-in and mobile clinics could help with the access barring an unknown number of people from getting a dose, he said.
On Wednesday, Chesterfield Health District opened its community vaccination clinic at Virginia State University to walk-ins. The clinic, which is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., will continue this strategy until May 29 when the site closes.
Richmond and Henrico’s health district held a walk-in clinic at George Wythe High School on Wednesday that will be a weekly event from 11 to 4 p.m. Both events are administering the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which like Moderna, is only available for people 18 and up.
Six additional walk-in Pfizer vaccine events are scheduled throughout May at the Richmond Raceway, which closes on May 27, according to Henrico County officials.
While removing the need to make an appointment is estimated to help with accessibility, vaccine demand is waning. Chesterfield Health District spokesperson Brookie Crawford said in an email Wednesday the decision to allow walk-ins was in large part due to not enough slots being filled to meet the supply.
The average number of daily doses administered in the last week, a rough gauge of how many people are vaccinated on a given day, has continued to dip since the last week of April. On Wednesday, the average was 64,622 shots given. Last week, it was 72,524.
Still, almost 46% of the state has received at least one shot. The figure jumps to more than 60% among people who are 18 and up.
For Virginians wanting to register for a vaccine, visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 877-829-4682.
Staff writer Jess Nocera contributed to this report