The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced on Friday that the Commonwealth is preparing to receive 480,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of December based on new information from the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed.
As Governor Ralph Northam noted during a coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted last week to officially recommend healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents as top priority for vaccination.
In response, the Virginia Disaster Medical Advisory Committee (VDMAC) and the Virginia Unified Command voted to adopt the recommendations and vaccinate those two groups first, which the VDH estimates there are about 500,000 healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents in the state.
“Vaccine will be provided to Virginians in a way that is fair, ethical, and transparent,” Virginia State Health Commissioner Norman Oliver said in the news release. “We will focus initially on the groups that have been most at risk for severe illness from COVID-19 infections and those whose work puts them at greatest risk of contracting COVID-19 infections. Over time, as more vaccine supply becomes available, more Virginians will be able to get vaccinated, and we can look forward to a time when this pandemic will end.”
According to the VDH, the 480,000 doses will consist of Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines, if they are given emergency-use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. Both companies have already applied and should be receiving answers soon.
Those nearly half a million doses will come after the 72,150 initial doses Virginia is expecting to receive from Pfizer by mid-December. All the initial vaccines will be distributed directly to health care systems throughout the state that have ultra-cold freezers and given to healthcare personnel. Those that directly treat coronavirus patients will get first priority, according to the release.
The following weekly shipments of vaccines will be split among the two groups, with long-term care facility residents receiving doses from CVS and Walgreens’ teams, through a federal partnership with the CDC, at specifically set up clinics called closed points of dispensing, the VDH release said.
If everything goes accordingly, those steps would constitute the first phase of Virginia’s COVID-19 vaccination plan. In the second phase, vaccines are intended for Virginians who are medically vulnerable or other priority groups and will be administered at pharmacies and open clinics.
The third phase is mostly for the general public to get vaccinated as well as any other groups that did not count during the first two phases. Vaccinations will occur at pharmacies and community vaccination partners.
Despite the expectation for vaccines to be in Virginia by year’s end, there is no statewide mandate for it. During a virtual presentation to the House Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions on Monday, state epidemiologist Dr. Lilian Peake told lawmakers that a vaccine mandate is not something the VDH is considering since a majority of Virginians want to get vaccinated.
For more information about VDH’s COVID-19 vaccination response plan, visit: www.vdh.virginia.gov/covid-19-vaccine.
Currently, the 7-day positivity rate is 10.6 percent, there have been 4,200 total coronavirus deaths in Virginia – 3,822 confirmed, 378 probably – and 15,295 total hospitalizations, according to the VDH COVID-19 daily dashboard.
As of Sunday, there are 1,490 confirmed COVID patients currently hospitalized, according to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association dashboard.
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