Vaccine Doses Could Come Quicker Than Expected for Virginia

By Brian Carlton

December 4, 2020

Health officials say the federal government promised them 480,000 doses this month.

RICHMOND-Well, that escalated quickly. On Nov. 30, Virginia Health Department officials said Virginians should only expect 70,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine by mid-December. At that point, it was unclear when the rest of the Phase One group would get vaccinated. By Dec. 4, the timeline cleared up a bit.

“Virginia is now preparing to receive an estimated total of 480,000 doses of vaccine from two manufacturers (Pfizer and Moderna) by the end of December,” Health Dept. officials said Friday in a statement.

As for what caused the change, officials said on Dec. 3, they received updated numbers from the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed. Originally, all we knew was that Pfizer promised 70,000 doses by mid-December. Now Pfizer officials say the company can send 72,150 initial doses by that point, with weekly shipments after that. Moderna also now expects to be ready to distribute, bringing the full number up to 480,000.

As Dogwood reported earlier this week, the Food and Drug Administration will grant Pfizer an emergency hearing Dec. 10. Moderna is slightly behind. The company only asked the FDA this week for a similar emergency hearing to distribute the vaccine.

The expected number of doses isn’t the only thing changing. Health officials also made it clear Friday how they plan to distribute these first two batches. The first 72,150 doses will go to any healthcare personnel who directly care for COVID-19 patients. Up next will be all other healthcare workers, then long-term and assisted living residents.

If Virginia gets the shipments as promised, that leaves only 160,994 people from the Phase One grouping to be vaccinated in January. That includes all long-term/assisted living facility staff members and any facility residents not vaccinated.

RELATED: No Virginia, There Won’t Be a Lockdown. Now Wear Your Mask.

Phase One and Beyond

Most long-term care facility residents will get their vaccine at home. CVS and Walgreens will be sending teams to the long-term care facilities across the state through a partnership between the Centers for Disease Control and local pharmacies.

Once we clear Phase One, other groups will be in line. Phase Two includes all “frontline” or “essential” workers. That means everyone from teachers to grocery store employees. In addition, medically vulnerable residents would also be in Phase Two. That’s people with pre-existing conditions, with any type of medical problem that put them at higher risk of catching the virus. 

“[The] vaccine will be provided to Virginians in a way that is fair, ethical, and transparent,” said Virginia State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver in a statement. “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.”

With Phase One, it’ll take weeks to distribute the vaccine to everyone. In Phase Two, think double or triple that. Just over 3 million people fall under the Phase Two guidelines. Phase Three includes the remaining 4.88 million adults. Be prepared to wait if you’re in that group. A best case scenario puts Phase Three receiving shots by April or May, 2021. 

Brian Carlton is Dogwood’s managing editor. You can reach him at [email protected].

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