Virginia COVID-19 vaccine chief: ‘We will easily make’ Biden’s May 1 goal

The coordinator of Virginia’s COVID-19 vaccine program said Friday that immunizing everyone in Phase 1b in the commonwealth is “right around the corner.”

Dr. Danny Avula added that President Joe Biden’s goal of having every adult eligible to get the vaccine by May 1 should be no sweat.

“We really think we will easily make that May 1 marker, and maybe outpace it by a couple of weeks,” Avula said.

It’s “very realistic” to get through Phase 1b by mid-April, in some sections sooner, Avula added, saying that different areas of the commonwealth can move “at their own pace” to Phases 1c and 2: “We certainly don’t want to slow any vaccinations down.”

Phase 1b includes front line essential workers; people 65 and older; people 16 to 64 with a high-risk medical condition or disability, and people living in correctional facilities, homeless shelters and migrant labor camps.

Avula said Virginia was anticipating 195,000 first doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. As predicted, there was no Johnson & Johnson vaccine allocated this week, and a small amount — about 9,600 doses — is coming next week. The week of March 29, allocation could “shoot up north of 100,000,” Avula said.

Asked how the switch to Phase 1c would differ from the difficult progression to 1b in January, Avula said “it has everything to do with the supply and the capacity to get it out.” In January, the state was getting an average of 10,000 to 15,000 doses a day. They’re getting 55,000 a day now, and sometimes 70,000.

“We’re not going to have that really stark supply-to-demand mismatch that we had.”

He said that vaccination sites that begin to drop below 90% of appointments being filled in Phase 1b can go into their 1c list if necessary to fill out those appointments. And if that starts happening regularly, he said, that’s a good sign the district can move to Phase 1c — other essential workers.

From there, “There aren’t that many people in 1c,” Avula said, predicting the move to Phase 2 — where anyone is eligible — could take as little as a week.

Johnson & Johnson

Avula said people who have religious objections to the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine have options: When people get their appointments, they’ll be told what vaccine they’re in line to get, and can decline without losing their place in line. And the state may get to a point where distribution is so strong that providers will have more than one vaccine in stock, so people can pick.

Avula said he saw “really great turnout” at mass vaccination sites he attended where the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was being administered, and lots of “positive affirmation” about the one-dose shot from “many geographies and age and race demographics.”

He reminded residents about the website to preregister for a vaccination appointment; you’ll be contacted when it’s your turn. If you’d rather talk to someone, or if you have any questions or problems, the call center is at 877-VAX-IN-VA. Fairfax County is still maintaining its own system and is not participating in the state’s system.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2012 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He went to George Washington University as an undergraduate and is regularly surprised at the changes to the city since that faraway time.

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