RICHMOND, Va. -- Starting this week, pharmacies in Virginia administering COVID-19 vaccines will sync up with the state’s rollout which keeps the focus on seniors, but one young woman’s chance to get vaccinated came a little earlier than expected.
Mel Pruett has been living in fear for the past 11 months.
“It was really scary to go to the grocery store for the first time, even going out to my car. I remember holding my breath because I was so scared,” said Pruett. “I am somebody that cannot get sick. It can literally kill me”
The Richmond woman takes no chances when it comes to coronavirus. She lives with a debilitating underlying condition called POTS. It stands for Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome.
“I know that I look healthy, like a normal 20-something-year-old, but that is an invisible illness, an invisible condition that affects your whole body,” Pruett explained. “It affects your heart, it affects your blood pressure, it affects your cognitive thinking.”
And it also makes her vulnerable to COVID-19.
“Therefore, if I do have an infection, I would essentially die,” Pruett said.
But her fears will end soon.
When Walgreens first opened up COVID vaccine appointments in Virginia, Pruett was able to claim one.
She said a friend tagged her in a post on Facebook alerting her about appointments five hours away in Pennington Gap in the southwestern part of the state.
“I woke up at 2 o’clock in the morning for my vaccine appointment, had to drive through Tennessee,” Pruett recalled.
While Pruett qualified for category 1B because of her pre-existing condition, the Virginia Department of Health has asked all pharmacies administering shots to prioritize seniors 65 years of age and older.
So how did Pruett and other Virginians under 65 get appointments?
“It did take us a couple days to figure out exactly how that will work logistically,” Dr. Danny Avula, the state’s vaccine leader said.
Avula said when additional pharmacies were added to a federal vaccine program, coordination details were still being finalized.
“In the meantime, we did not want people to be sitting on the vaccine or hold off on vaccinating communities while they had this vaccine,” said Avula. “So we said go ahead and use whatever process you all want for the first few days.”
Starting Monday, Avula said pharmacies will book appointments using the statewide pre-registration system established by VDH.
In a statement, a Walgreens corporate spokesperson said the pharmacy will follow direction from VDH to prioritize people over 65. However, Walgreens will not cancel appointments already made by people under 65.
While Pruett waits for her second dose, she says she’s looking forward to putting her life back on track.
“I feel as though this is like, you know, a second chance at life almost,” Pruett said. “This is life saving.”
Pruett credits social media for helping her find an appointment and wants to encourage others looking to get a shot to utilize social media as a tool to help others.
She hopes to get her second dose closer to home.
There is not currently a residency requirement for vaccines, but VDH encourages those to get a shot in their local health district since the allocation is based off the geographical population.