2021-3-17

Some Virginia Health Districts to Begin Transition to Phase 1C Vaccinations

(RICHMOND, VA) – The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced today that some health districts will begin the transition to Phase 1c vaccinations this week, and that all communities across Virginia should be able to open to this group of essential workers within weeks.

The decision to move from one phase to the next is made in coordination with local and state health officials and is dependent upon a variety of factors. Before moving to 1c, local health departments must have made strong efforts to reach all those eligible in 1a and 1b populations, particularly communities that have been disproportionately impacted, such as communities of color. Local health departments also must consider whether demand for vaccine has decreased among 1a and 1b populations.

“Finally, the light at the end of this long journey seems to be coming into view,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A. “Vaccine is our best hope of ending the pandemic. My heartfelt thanks to the many Virginians who are signing up and getting vaccinated and for the health care workers and volunteers who are administering vaccines.”

“It is important that everyone who falls in one of the priority groups outlined in phases 1a-1c, including Virginians who are 65 and older, essential workers, and those 16-64 with underlying health conditions, get signed up on the state’s pre-registration list as soon as possible,” said Danny Avula, MD, MPH Virginia’s COVID Vaccine Coordinator. “In some communities, those on that pre-registration list will be contacted in days, not weeks, to schedule an appointment for your vaccine.”

Virginia began vaccinating healthcare personnel and people living in long-term care facilities in December, before moving to Phase 1b in January. Phase 1b includes those 65 and older, those 16-64 with underlying medical conditions and some frontline essential workers. Phase 1c includes additional essential workers, including those in the energy, construction, food services and other fields. Overlap of vaccination of groups may occur to ensure people in each phase are vaccinated as quickly and efficiently as possible. A full list of those included in each phase is available on the VDH vaccine website.

All communities are expected to move into Phase 1c by mid-April. Anyone over age 16 who lives or works in Virginia will be eligible for a vaccine in Phase 2, which is expected to begin by May 1.

Anyone who wants a vaccine should pre-register for an appointment by visiting vaccinate.virginia.gov or by calling 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-829-4682) from 8 a.m.-8p.m., seven days a week. Representatives are available in English and Spanish, and translation is available in any of more than 100 languages. TTY dial 7-1-1.

Those who have pre-registered should check the list at vaccinate.virginia.gov or by calling the call center to ensure their information is accurate. Incomplete or inaccurate information could result in you not being contacted for an appointment.

If you are pre-registered, make sure you are checking your email and answering your phone because it could be an invitation to schedule your appointment.

For more information about Virginia’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts, visit: www.vdh.virginia.gov/covid-19-vaccine/.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Screening and Early Detection is Key to Effective Treatment

South Hill, VA (3/15/21) - March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and a good time to learn more about colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon and rectum) and how it can be prevented or best treated.

"Cancer in the colon and rectum is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. This cancer can be prevented with early screening tests, such as a colonoscopy," explained general surgeon Desiderio J. Rimon, MD.

How can I lower my risk?

To lower your risk of colorectal cancer, the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons and the American Cancer Society recommend that you:

-Get regular colorectal cancer screenings after age 45. Between 80-90% of colorectal cancer patients are restored to normal health if their cancer is detected and treated in the earliest stages. However, most insurance companies only cover colonoscopies at age 50 and older. Check with your insurance company first to be sure.

-Eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet and maintain a healthy body weight.

-If you use alcohol, drink only in moderation. If you use tobacco, quit. If you don't use tobacco, don't start. Alcohol and tobacco in combination are linked to colorectal cancer and other gastrointestinal cancers.

-Exercise for at least 20 minutes three to four days each week. Moderate exercise such as walking, gardening or climbing steps may help.

Can colorectal cancer be cured?

Since there are very few symptoms associated with colorectal cancer, regular screening is essential. Screening is beneficial for two main reasons: colorectal cancer is preventable if polyps that lead to the cancer are detected and removed, and it is curable if the cancer is detected in its early stages.

In addition, studies have shown that patients treated by colorectal surgeons -- experts in the surgical and nonsurgical treatment of colon and rectal problems -- are more likely to survive colorectal cancer and experience fewer complications. This is attributed to colorectal surgeons' advanced training and the high volume of colon and rectal disease surgeries they perform.

Who is at risk for colorectal cancer?

The risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with age. All men and women aged 45 and older are at risk for developing colorectal cancer, and should be screened. Some people are at a higher risk and should be screened at an age younger than 45, including those with a personal or family history of inflammatory bowel disease; colorectal cancer or polyps; or ovarian, endometrial or breast cancer.

Current screening methods include fecal occult blood testing (a simple chemical test that can detect hidden blood in the stool), flexible sigmoidoscopy (a visual examination of the rectum and lower portion of the colon, performed in a doctor's office), double contrast barium enema (barium x-ray), colonoscopy (a visual examination of the entire colon) and digital rectal exam. Colorectal cancer screening costs are covered by Medicare and many commercial health plans. You should find out from your healthcare provider which screening procedure is right for you and how often you should be screened.

“At VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital, our general surgeons are here to provide this life-saving procedure with compassionate and expert care. Make an appointment with one of our general surgeons today by calling (434) 584-2273. We are here for you,” said Dr. Rimon.

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