By SARAH RANKIN Associated Press
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — If federal regulators authorize two COVID-19 vaccine candidates, Virginia expects to receive enough doses by the year’s end to begin inoculating nearly all of its health care workers and long-term care facility residents, officials said Friday.
The state voted this week to adopt federal recommendations that those two groups be prioritized for vaccination. The Virginia Department of Health estimates there are up to 500,000 health care workers and long-term care facility residents in the state and announced Friday that 480,000 doses of vaccine from Pfizer and Moderna could arrive by the end of December.
“We will focus initially on the groups that have been most at risk for severe illness from COVID-19 infections and those whose work puts them at greatest risk of contracting COVID-19 infections,” Virginia State Health Commissioner Dr. M. Norman Oliver said in a statement Friday. “Over time, as more vaccine supply becomes available, more Virginians will be able to get vaccinated, and we can look forward to a time when this pandemic will end.”
Later this month, the Food and Drug Administration will consider authorizing emergency use of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Each product requires two doses.
Pending regulatory authorization, the first shipment is expected to include 72,150 initial doses of the Pfizer vaccine arriving in mid-December, according to a health department news release.
All those initial doses will be distributed directly to health care systems with ultracold storage capacity, and will go to health care workers, officials said. Health care personnel that directly care for COVID-19 patients will receive top priority.
Subsequent weekly shipments are expected to begin after the initial shipment and will be divided among health care personnel and long-term care facility residents, according to the news release, which noted that the actual amount of vaccine received in Virginia would be a “moving target.”
Experts say the vaccine will probably not become widely available in the U.S. until the spring.
Most long-term care facility residents in Virginia will receive vaccinations in their facility through a federal partnership with CVS and Walgreens, the health department said.
The news comes as the number of Americans hospitalized with COVID-19 hit an all-time high in the U.S. this week, reaching 100,667 on Thursday, according to the COVID Tracking Project. That figure has more than doubled over the past month, while new daily cases are averaging 210,000 and deaths are averaging 1,800 per day, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Comparatively, Virginia has been faring better than many other states. There were 395.8 new cases per 100,000 people in Virginia over the past two weeks, which ranks 47th in the country for new cases per capita, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from the COVID Tracking Project.
Still, one in every 546 people tested positive for the virus in the past week in the state, where over 4,100 deaths have been attributed to the virus. Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases has increased by 406.1, an increase of 22.3%, according to AP’s analysis.