The number of COVID-19 doses coming to Virginia is expected to increase in the next two weeks, the state’s vaccine coordinator said Friday.
“We had a big bump in new vaccine this week, which is pretty exciting,” Dr. Danny Avula said during a news briefing. “We’ve gone from 130,000 doses up to about 161,000 doses for this upcoming week. That is our core state allocation.”
In addition, Avula said the federal government will double the vaccines going to pharmacies and will start shipping to federally qualified health centers in Virginia.
CVS is already getting 26,000 weekly doses for its Virginia stores. Avula said another 26,000 doses will come through the federal pharmacy program to chains and independent pharmacies. The list of pharmacies includes all the chains and independent networks.
He said the Virginia Department of Health is working with the pharmacies so that they can pull names from the local health districts’ preregistration lists. The details should be worked out early next week. CVS has a separate registration system.
Avula said it is not yet known how many doses will go to the health centers but guessed that each of the 25 to 30 clinics will get about 100 doses.
Virginia has been allocating its doses to the health districts based on their share of population. Avula said officials are working on a new distribution plan that would favor localities with higher rates of elderly residents, especially African American and Latino elderly, who are among the most vulnerable to infections and poor outcomes from the virus.
He expects supplies to better match demand once Johnson & Johnson’s and AstraZenca’s vaccines are approved.
“Looking at our current and anticipated supply, we are looking at the middle of April, best-case scenario for everyone in [Phase] 1b to get vaccinated,” he said.
“I think we are going to see not a small linear increase but more of an explosion of vaccine that comes in at the end of April or early May,” he said.
In the meantime, winter storms delayed Virginia from receiving about 105,000 doses of Moderna vaccines. Of those, about 70,000 are first doses.
“We are very hopeful that we will receive the vaccine that we need on Monday, but of course we are going to need people to be flexible if that’s not the case,” Dr. Cynthia Morrow, director of the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts, said Friday during a media briefing.
She expects next week’s clinics to go off as planned.
The Virginia Department of Health said Thursday that the state was seeing delays in shipments this week because of the two major winter storms.
Morrow said that the Pfizer shipment arrived but not the Moderna doses, and that officials were able to shift supplies to cover this week’s clinics.
With just-in-time deliveries of the vaccine, there is less flexibility to cover clinics at the start of the week. Morrow said the worst-case scenario is that the shipments will be delayed until Tuesday, the first clinic of the week.
She also spoke about the emergence of variants of the coronavirus. The one first discovered in South Africa was confirmed in the health department's Southwest region on Thursday.
“It really gets back to the importance of not letting our guard down. My greatest concern as a public health official is that people take the good news and the run with it in a way that may ultimately be harmful,” Morrow said. “The variants are stark reminder that we cannot let up on community mitigation strategies. We cannot afford to let up on intensive vaccination efforts.”
Dr. Noelle Bissell, director of the New River Health District, said in a news release, “We are in a race to stop the spread of these new variants, and it’s time to double down on personal precautions. It is critical that all Virginians comply now with mitigation measures. The more people that become infected, the greater that chance the virus will mutate and a variant will arise that could undermine all our vaccination efforts.”
Daily case counts for localities in the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts have bounced up and down this week as data adjustments have been made to reflect the localities where people who test positive actually live.