RICHMOND, Va. - As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Virginia, the Virginia Department of Health announced Friday that health care workers and people who live in long-term care facilities will be the first to receive the initial doses of the vaccine in the Commonwealth.
Based on new information provided on December 3 by the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed, VDH says 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.
This initial distribution will make sure 480,000 health care personnel (HCP) and long-term care facility (LTCF) residents receive a first dose of the vaccine, beginning the inoculation process for nearly all members of Virginia’s two top-priority groups, if the state receives this expected allotment. VDH estimates that there are up to 500,000 HCP and LTCF residents in Virginia.
“Vaccine will be provided to Virginians in a way that is fair, ethical, and transparent,” said Virginia State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A. “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.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) voted Tuesday to formally recommend HCP and LTCF residents as top priorities for vaccination. In response, the Virginia Disaster Medical Advisory Committee (VDMAC) and the Virginia Unified Command voted this week to officially adopt ACIP recommendations in Virginia and provide initial vaccines to both HCP and LTCF residents.
The first shipment of vaccines is expected to be received from Pfizer in mid-December and will require ultra-cold storage at -70 degrees Celsuis. The health department says all 72,150 initial doses will be distributed directly to geographically diverse health care systems with ultra-cold storage capacity and will go to HCP.
Health care workers who directly care for COVID-19 patients will receive top priority among health care providers.
Subsequent weekly shipments are expected to begin after the initial shipment and will be divided among HCP and LTCF residents. VDH says the majority of LTCF in Virginia will receive vaccinations from CVS and Walgreens’ teams onsite through a federal CDC-pharmacy-LTCF partnership. Health care systems and public health will ensure access to vaccination for all HCP and LTCF residents equitably across the entire state.
According to ACIP, as of December 1, approximately 245,000 COVID-19 cases and 858 COVID-19-associated deaths had been reported among U.S. HCP.
Early protection of HCP is critical to preserve capacity to care for patients with COVID-19 or other illnesses. LTCF residents, because of their age, high rates of underlying medical conditions and congregate living situation, are at high risk for infection and severe illness from COVID-19.
As of November 15, approximately 500,000 COVID-19 cases and 70,000 associated deaths had been reported among residents of skilled nursing facilities in the United States.
The health department says the actual amount of vaccine received in Virginia is a moving target and depends when and how quickly vaccination doses are manufactured. VDH is coordinating future prioritization based on federal guidance.
For more information about VDH’s COVID-19 Vaccination Response Plan, click here.