HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Virginia’s COVID-19 vaccination program expanded this week as residents and staff of long-term care and assisted living facilities started to receive the vaccine on Monday.
That group is the second portion of what’s known as “Phase 1A” which Virginian officials have decided will be given first access to the vaccine, which is currently in limited supply. The other portion is made up of healthcare workers, which began receiving the vaccine two weeks ago.
It’s estimated there are around 500,000 people in that group.
The Virginia Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard reported that as of Tuesday, 47,052 first round doses of the vaccine have been administered. Both approved vaccines, by Pfizer and Moderna, require two shots separated several weeks apart.
The vaccinations in the long-term care facilities are being handled mostly by teams from CVS and Walgreens pharmacies through a partnership with the federal government.
“What we've heard from the centers across the Commonwealth is just that they are just feeling a lot of hope right now. Which is just a wonderful thing to hear, because they've been through so much over the last nine months,” said Keith Hare, CEO for the Virginia Health Care Association and Virginia Center for Assisted Living, which represents over 345 facilities in the Commonwealth. “Things are just going tremendously well. So that’s very promising to hear after two days.”
A spokesperson for CVS told CBS 6 there are over 870 facilities in Virginia and so far “we’ve been using our state allocations accordingly, and will continue to do so going forward. We’ve encountered no ‘bottlenecks’ or delays, save for some slight challenges in getting confirmation from facilities on clinic dates.”
Hare said each site will be visited three times to ensure that every person is able to the receive two doses of the vaccine.
And similar to how those who dealt with COVID-19 cases directly were at the front of the line for healthcare workers, Hare said nursing homes will be given priority over assisted living facilities.
“Because the nursing homes are at the greatest risk of having spread and also the vulnerability of the residents within the nursing home is greater than those in assisted living,” added Hare. “In a perfect world we would obviously love for nursing homes and assisted living to be done at one time. But, again, the amount of vaccine that's out there right now is not allowing that to take place.”
Hare said he hopes by early or mid-March, the vaccination at the facilities will be complete and they can return to some sense of normalcy, like allowing more family visits, but urged Virginians to continue to take precautions — like hand washing, mask wearing, and social distancing — until everyone has had a chance to get vaccinated.