Virginia Vaccine Numbers Start to Climb, With Mass Events Planned

By Amie Knowles

March 4, 2021

With Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine hitting the market, the supply will push toward the demand.

RICHMOND – The first shipment of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine will arrive in Virginia later today. Now the question is what will happen with those 69,000 doses.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Virginia Vaccine Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula provided a guideline, detailing what happens next.

“I mean, there’s some really great benefits for the J & J vaccine,” Avula said. “First and foremost, it’s a single dose vaccine, as opposed to the two doses with Moderna and Pfizer, which I think at some point will really allow for some flexibility and some optimal use in certain populations where it might be difficult to bring people back.”

That includes people who are hospitalized, Avula said, and could potentially be used for rural areas where it’s hard to repeatedly get out to a doctor’s office. But at least for this first shipment, the J & J version will be used in mass vaccination events.

RELATED: Johnson & Johnson’s Vaccine is Approved. What Happens Now?

The Initial Order

The state vaccine coordinator wasted no time once the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the vaccine over the weekend.

“We were able to start ordering on Monday of this week,” Avula said.

At the time, Virginia secured about 2% of the 2.8 million doses J&J made. The rest went to other parts of the country.

“And then another almost 22,000 doses of J & J will be going to the [Virginia] pharmacies through our existing partners,” Avula said.

As for this first batch of 69,000, Avula is making plans to use those over the next week. He’s setting up mass vaccination sites, places where you can drive up, wait in line and get your shot.

“A thousand-person a day, up to 5,000 people in an event,” Avula said. “And you’ll see that happening all over the state.”

Virginia Vaccine Numbers Start to Rise

For the second order, Avula does not expect another 69,000 doses.

“That amount should drop over the next couple of weeks. And it won’t be until the last week of March that we see supplies pick back up. But at that point they should do so in a very significant way,” Avula said. “We are anticipating that there will be somewhere around 100,000 doses and then that number will just continue to increase as they go through the month of April. And so pretty quickly here, J & J is going to become 20% to 30% of our overall allocation.”

The state vaccine coordinator also expected that Moderna and Pfizer vaccine doses would continue rising. Last week, the state received 178,000 doses. Next week, Avula expected upwards of 188,000 doses.

“We are seeing steady increases week over week in Moderna and Pfizer,” Avula said.

He noted that second doses also correlate with the first dose numbers from three and four weeks prior.

A Different Scenario

“As I look toward the rest of the month, this is a very different scenario than we’ve been in right up until this point,” Avula said. “This has been all about supply and how do we make sure that it gets to the right places and focuses on the right population.”

Now, as the supply gets closer to meeting the demand, the tables are turning.

“And while we absolutely need to still prioritize the most vulnerable, we are quickly moving to a scenario where supply is going to be here and in a really significant way, and we need to maximize the channels – so not just the health departments and hospitals that have been doing the bulk of our vaccination,” Avula said. “But now we’ll really start to see pharmacies move in even more robust ways than they have. We’ll start to see private practices get back to you and increase those access points to the communities. And we’ll see the community activation sites start to be a part of the vaccination solution in each district.”

Amie Knowles reports for Dogwood. You can reach her at [email protected]

  • Amie Knowles

    Amie is Dogwood's community editor. She has been in journalism for several years, winning multiple awards from the Virginia Press Association for news and features content. A lifelong Virginia resident, her work has appeared in the Martinsville Bulletin, Danville Register & Bee and NWNC Magazine.

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