A one-time uptick in the Pfizer vaccine will balance out a shortage of the other version.
RICHMOND – Johnson & Johnson didn’t meet their production goals for March. That means fewer doses of the vaccine will be showing up in Virginia over the next week. It won’t, however, slow down vaccination clinics, thanks to some help from Pfizer.
As state vaccine coordinator Dr. Danny Avula explained in his Friday press conference, Pfizer’s shipment will contain 140,000 first doses. That’s up from a typical amount of 112,000.
“That was an unexpected surprise, although the White House did say that’s a one-time bump,” Avula said. “We expect to drop down [afterwards] to the previous rates of around 112,000 first doses.”
In addition to the 140,000 first doses, Virginia will also receive 112,000 second Pfizer doses. Total next week, the state will receive 252,000 Pfizer vaccines.
Next week, the state will receive 164,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine. That number includes both first and second doses.
The uptick helped lessen the blow of receiving fewer Johnson & Johnson doses than expected.
“Our Johnson & Johnson allocation we were expecting was going to be over 100,000 doses. But it dropped to 49,000 doses,” Avula said. “We, in conversations with the White House this week, heard that Johnson & Johnson, I think, did not meet their production goals for the month of March and so didn’t quite get to the 4 million-plus doses that they were expecting to see this week.”
Avula expressed that the White House displayed confidence that Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine production will continue next week.
“What we heard yesterday is that [there will be] 4 to 5 million total doses nationwide for the Johnson & Johnson [version], which means that depending on how quickly that ramps up, we should go during the month of April from 49,000 doses a week to somewhere more like 150,000 doses a week,” Avula said.
Federal Retail Pharmacy Update
In addition to the state’s allocation of vaccine, the federal retail pharmacy rollout also continued. Next week, pharmacies expect to receive far more than the 127,000 usual doses.
“Our federal retail pharmacy allocation has jumped up a bunch. So last week, there was about 127,000. It’s gone up this week to 208,000. And that’s inclusive of [all] doses of Moderna and Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson,” Avula said. “So what that means, I think for the public, is that there will be many more opportunities to get vaccinated for the 1B population through pharmacies. That footprint is going to continue to expand.”
The federal retail pharmacy rollout expanded vaccination opportunities for many Americans.
“Pharmacies have also been incredibly helpful in doing one-off clinics for different targeted communities,” Avula said. “For example, we’ve had situations where you’ve got, like, a poultry manufacturing company. And so a pharmacy will go in and actually do that on-site vaccination. So lots of different examples of where pharmacies have really stepped out and been a huge help in the vaccination effort.”
The pharmacy plan helps vaccines reach a broader expanse of individuals.
“Seeing more go to the federal retail pharmacy program, it increases access points and it increases our flexibility in being able to do more targeted events,” Avula said.
Even though the state currently receives hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses each week, there are still Virginians on the preregistration list.
“Right now on the pre-registration list, we have about 2.6 million people in all phases,” Avula said. “A number of those are duplicate records and so when you look at the number of people who signed up from, you know, when we rolled this out in February, it’s about 1.4 million that have preregistered in the statewide system.”
The preregistration list gives a snapshot of how many Virginians still intend to receive the vaccine. However, Avula noted that there could still be others with vaccine interest who did not preregister.
“That is our, kind of, best data point because we’ve been pushing preregistration so hard,” Avula said. “Now again, as I’ve said a couple times, we know that there are segments of our population who aren’t going to do preregistration and so we’ve got to work extra hard to get vaccine out into those communities, to find other pathways for those residents.”
The doctor noted that while many Phase 1 vaccine recipients preregistered, many in Phase 2 didn’t follow the same path.
“[They seem to be] waiting for how we’re going to roll out vaccination once we open up to the general population,” Avula said.
As for vaccine acceptance rates, Avula referenced national data trends.
“Virginia has a total of 8.5 million people, and we take out the kids, you know, our goal is to get to 75% of that – and that’s 5.1 million people. But, you know, right now the national data would suggest you’re going to get to about 60% to 65% of that,” Avula said. “So the demand may be more like 4 million and we’re halfway there.”
On Friday, the Virginia Department of Health’s website showed that 2.1 million residents received at least one dose of the vaccine. Over 1.1 million Virginians received the second dose.
“I think for the 60% to 65% that are going to be easy to get, we’re a little over halfway there,” Avula said. “For that additional 10% to get to herd immunity, that’s going to be a lot of work. And I expect that that will be June and July as we rely on the relationships of private providers [and] as we do more and more of the relational work with communities who are vaccine hesitant. I expect that to happen over the summer. But I do think it’s really possible for us to get to that 75% goal by the end of the summer.”
Amie Knowles reports for Dogwood. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org