NORFOLK, Va. - The first doses of COVID-19 vaccinations reached Hampton Roads Monday. Healthcare workers are getting the first batch before vaccinations are expected to begin at long term care facilities on Dec. 28.
"It's definitely an exciting day - a lot of anticipation up to this moment and a lot of work yet to be done," said Dr. Laurie Forlano from the Virginia Dept. of Health.
Virginia is getting just over 70,000 vaccines in the first batch from Pfizer, but health officials anticipate having nearly 500,000 vaccines by the end of the year once the Moderna vaccine is approved.
Many in nursing homes will be vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine, according to officials. Moderna's doesn't have to be stored as cold as the Pfizer one. CVS and Walgreens will work with nursing homes to establish visits to begin vaccinations of residents.
"I think it will give them hope that we're going to see light at the end of the tunnel of the pandemic," said Keith Hare, the President and CEO of the Virginia Health Care Association-Virginia Center for Assisted Living.
Nursing homes have been hit particularly hard during the pandemic. More than 2,100 people at long-term care facilities have died, nearly half of all deaths in Virginia due to COVID-19.
"We're thrilled that nursing homes have been prioritized because we know how susceptible their residents are and how much more serious it is when they contract COVID," said Melissa Andrews, the President and CEO of LeadingAge Virginia, a non-profit group representing more than 100 aging service providers.
While some may be hesitant to take the vaccine, health officials have stressed it's safe. "People are weary, but I just got off a call with 12 of my members and you could just see the relief on their faces just thinking that there's a light at the end of the tunnel now," said Andrews. "There is an end in sight. It won't come right away, but we're on the path."