COVID-19 vaccinations in Virginia have now expanded beyond front line health care workers.
“Our long-term care facilities just started this week,” Virginia Department of Health Division of Immunization Director Christy Gray said during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.
“It will take approximately three to four weeks to get that first dose done with the skilled nursing facilities, and we will also start the assisted living facilities in the coming three to four weeks,” she said.
Vaccinations in long-term care facilities are being administered through a federal partnership program that makes CVS and Walgreens pharmacies exclusively responsible for coordinating vaccinations. Noting that arrangements are being made with 1,442 facilities for three visits each, VDH Director of Communications Maria Reppas asked those facilities for their patience.
As of Wednesday, more than 54,200 people had received the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines in Virginia, experiencing only common reactions such as soreness at the injection site, tiredness, headache and a short-term fever that reflects the body is working to develop immunity.
“We have not heard of any serious adverse events happening in Virginia with either of these vaccines,” Gray said.
So, who’s next in line to be prioritized in Phase 1b (essential workers) and Phase 1c (high-risk adults)?
Virginia now is reviewing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and expects to announce specifics by the end of the week.
Promised a total of 370,000 doses by year’s end, vaccines began arriving in Virginia mid-December and approximately 285,000 were in the state on Wednesday with additional shipments expected weekly.
Getting shots in people’s arms, though, has been happening more slowly than anticipated.
Gray attributed that to logistical challenges and the timing of vaccine availability. “It’s been two weeks, but we had Christmas in there, we’ve got weekends in there,” she said.
The situation also may appear worse than it is because of lag time and issues related to information getting posted onto the Virginia vaccine data dashboard.
“There might be some technical issues that we’re working with the vaccinators to work through to enter the data into the registry,” Gray said.
Overall, Gray said that she’s pleased with the progress but acknowledges there’s still a long way to go.
“We’ve been planning so long to get all these moving pieces in place and now that it’s working and they’re all getting into place, we’re getting more efficient about it, we’re getting used to all these systems interacting with each other,” Gray said. “So, at first it’s expected to be slower, but I think it will get much quicker as we move along.”
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