Public health officials are making one last push in the Roanoke region to vaccinate adults who have qualifying health conditions before opening clinics to the next wave of eligible workers.
Dr. Cynthia Morrow, director of the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts, said during a media briefing Tuesday that 8,000 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine have arrived and that additional doses of the Moderna vaccine are here as well. More than 17,000 shots will be given by week’s end, she said. About 4,000 are second doses.
“We are hoping with this significant bump of vaccine that we will meet the criteria to move into Phase 1c, but we won’t know that until we open up the clinic,” she said.
The districts have gotten about 8,000 weekly doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for much of March.
Some parts of Virginia, including the New River Valley, have moved to the next phase of the vaccination campaign, which includes people who work in higher education, media, construction, restaurants and legal services.
Roanoke is still in Phase 1b, which includes the elderly and anyone 16 and older with a qualifying medical condition.
Morrow said that all clinic appointments still are being filled within hours of invitations going out.
The Roanoke region is outperforming the state average in the percentage of its population that has had at least one shot, yet the waiting list is longer than in other communities, she said.
“It may be in part because there’s more demand, which is a good thing. It means our population understands the importance of getting vaccinated,” Morrow said. “As a health director, I am motivated and inspired by the demand for our vaccine.”
As of Tuesday, nearly 2.5 million Virginians, or about 29% of the population, had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
While the rate of new cases of the disease has fallen since a peak in January, it remains as high as it was in November, when the holiday peak began and was averaging 1,530 new cases a day statewide. This is an increase of 100 cases a day since last week. There is growing concern that some parts of the U.S. are heading into a fourth surge.
In the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts, cases have plateaued, with 276 new infections during the past week and 27 more hospital admissions.
Morrow advised people to take care in celebrating Easter and to do so outside or on Zoom.
“We must keep in mind that the best gift we can give each other is the gift of health. That has been true this past year,” she said. “I don’t think anyone wants to risk their loved ones’ health by gathering for a holiday.”
Fully vaccinated people can gather indoors and without mask in small groups with other fully vaccinated people. Otherwise, they should observe the same rules of masking and distancing.
It is possible for fully vaccinated people to still become infected by COVID. Morrow said the state recently issued guidance for the health districts to look at what are considered breakthrough cases.
She said they are investigating 15 possible cases but thinks most of them will not meet the definition of the infection occurring 14 days or more after the one-shot J&J or after the second shot of Pfizer and Moderna.
“This is an incredibly safe and effective vaccine, but as long as there is COVID activity, none of the three vaccines are 100% effective,” she said.