Vaccine rollout moving smoothly in Virginia


Health care groups in Virginia say the rollout of the state's first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been smooth and without problems.

About 70,000 vaccine doses were being distributed to hospitals across the commonwealth Monday and Tuesday. Because of the limited number of doses, they initially will be made available to the top priority groups, which are residents and staff at long-term care facilities and health care workers. Those with the highest risk jobs and those with the highest risk of exposure will be the first among the priority group to receive the vaccine.

Anyone who receives a first dose will need to take a second. Receiving the vaccine is voluntary, and Gov. Ralph Northam said he does not intend to make them mandatory.

The process of distributing the vaccine has a lot of moving parts, but, to date, everything is proceeding as planned, Julian Walker, the vice president of communications at the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association, told The Center Square.

Walker said the vaccine has been sent to 18 hospitals throughout the commonwealth that are part of broader health care systems. These hospitals will use some of the vaccine doses and then distribute doses to other members of the health care system and other hospitals in the region.

The Virginia Health Care Association – Virginia Center for Assisted Living expressed gratitude over the vaccine availability.

“On behalf of Virginia’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities, we are immensely grateful that the commonwealth is prioritizing our residents and caregivers for the first distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine,” Keith Hare, the president and CEO of the organization, told The Center Square. “More than 2,000 long term care residents in Virginia have died from this virus and tragically facilities continue to experience outbreaks. Knowing that our staff and residents are only weeks away from receiving a vaccine will be a lifesaver for many and allow us to begin to reopen our facilities to family members and loved ones.”

Erin Beard, the public information officer for the Virginia Department of Health, told The Center Square it has not been made aware of any issues involving vaccine distribution.

Beard said the commonwealth should receive about 480,000 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna by the end of December, which will be nearly enough to cover the estimated 500,000 people in the top priority groups. She said the department expects to have their second doses available at the appropriate time.

Vaccines should be available for the general population by late spring or early summer of 2021, but Beard said the situation is fluid and evolving.

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