With Gov. Ralph Northam’s deadline for all Virginia counties to shift to Phase 2 by April 18, Northern Virginia could temporarily receive fewer doses of COVID-19 vaccine from the state health department, according to public health experts.
Dr. David Goodfriend, Loudoun County’s health director, said during Phases 1a, 1b and 1c, in addition to the county’s daily allocation of approximately 4,500 shots, the Virginia Department of Health has been able to shift extra shots to Northern Virginia.
“One of the values of having a statewide registration process is that they’re able to see throughout the state how many people have signed up and are waiting for their local health department to vaccinate them,” Goodfriend said.
Goodfriend said the state’s goal has been to ensure that as supply of Moderna, Pfizer, and J&J vaccines increases, “that we’re able to get shots into the arms of the most vulnerable folks — they don’t want any vaccine waiting on the shelf.”
In highly populated, wealthier and healthier Northern Virginia counties, demand for vaccinations has remained high.
“In some places, where they’ve had vaccine available, they’ve had slots go unfilled, because they’ve been restricted to the Phase 1 individuals,” Goodfriend said.
Once the state shifts to Phase 2, which includes offering shots to the general population aged 16 and older, the extra shots that until now have been sent to Northern Virginia will likely not be available, temporarily.
“We may not get many first dose vaccines for several weeks, as the state looks and sees what the demand is in Phase 2 in other parts of the commonwealth,” Goodfriend said.
Since the start of vaccinations, Virginia has prioritized offering second doses of Moderna and Pfizer available over providing first doses — J&J only requires one dose.
While Northern Virginia has reaped the benefit of receiving shots from other jurisdictions during the focus on inoculating high-risk people, Phase 2 will mean a much larger eligibility pool.
“Phase 2 is ‘everybody else,'” Goodfriend said. “There are many in that 16 to 64 category who are perfectly healthy and have been waiting patiently to get vaccine.”
With smaller populations in other parts of the state — and perhaps less demand — Goodfriend expects Northern Virginia will quickly resume receiving enough doses from the state to expand administration of first doses.
Goodfriend said Virginia health experts see vaccinating younger people as a priority. Minors need a parent’s permission to receive the Pfizer vaccine, which is the only one currently approved for those 16 and 17 years of age.
“We know that younger adults are more likely to spread infections, so we’re very motivated throughout the commonwealth to see our college students [vaccinated] before they leave campus,” Goodfriend said. “They are a priority for us, but they’re not a formally carved-out group, like we had in Phase 1.”
Despite a likely temporary dip in the number of vaccines sent to local health departments at the start of Phase 2, Goodfriend said there will continue to be at least as many vaccines available, locally.
“There’s also the parallel process of vaccines at our local pharmacies, that get it from the federal government, and that will continue to have vaccine for Phase 2 people when we get to that phase,” Goodfriend said. “That’s a completely separate process from the state allocation.”
In addition to what the state has available, for people who preregister at vaccinate.virginia.gov, Goodfriend said anyone can go to vaccinefinder.org, enter a ZIP code, and find available vaccine, if it exists, in that locality.