COVID-19 vaccine syringes in a basket Virginia Mercury

A basket of syringes containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine ready to be used at Richmond Raceway in Richmond on Feb. 2, 2021. 

About 210,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine will begin flowing into Virginia on a weekly basis by the first week of March as additional pharmacy chains – including Walgreens, Walmart, Safeway, Giant, Food Lion, Harris Teeter and Kroger – begin administering shots.

Meanwhile, the severe winter weather has caused a delay in the delivery of Virginia’s vaccine supply this week, which means local health districts should have more doses to give out next week, according to Dr. Danny Avula, who is overseeing the Virginia’s vaccination efforts.

Up until this week, Virginia was getting only about 105,000 doses of vaccine per week from the federal government, while CVS was getting another 26,000 doses for a weekly total of about 131,000. 

Virginia is expecting its general weekly allocation to grow to 160,000 doses next week, while the expansion of the federal pharmacy program will soon grow to 52,000 doses a week -- double CVS's weekly allotment of 26,000 doses.

The extra 26,000 doses will be split among the longer list of new retail pharmacies being added to the federal program, Avula said.

In total, the additional doses amount to about a 60% increase in the state's weekly allocation.

The boost is thought to be the result in an increased supply from vaccine manufacturers, Avula said Thursday during a Prince William County Committee of 100 event.

CVS is continuing to focus on Virginians age 65 and older and is making appointments through its own website. Those appointments can be made at www.cvs.com.

The Virginia Department of Health is attempting to work with the other pharmacies to have them make appointments from the statewide waiting list. State officials have not yet figured out how to do that, but are working on it, Avula said.

“The intent, certainly, is to have those folks who have been waiting on our pre-registry list to be prioritized, and I think we have some clear pathways to do that,” Avula said.

It’s not clear when the additional pharmacies will begin making appointments or giving shots, but more details should be released by the end of next week, Avula said.

Local impact of additional doses not yet clear

It’s not yet clear how much extra vaccine will flow into the Prince William Health District next week. 

The county health district had about 6,530 first and second doses to administer this week but had the capacity to get only about 3,600 shots in arms, Brian Misner, Prince William County’s emergency management coordinator, told the Prince William County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Feb. 16.

Some of those appointments had to be rescheduled because of inclement weather. The most recent winter storm shut down the county health district’s vaccination clinics on Thursday and delayed their opening on Friday.

The 3,600 weekly appointments does not include the Pfizer vaccine shots being administered to local teachers and school division staff by Novant Health UVA Health System’s Prince William Medical Center.

Nor does it include the doses being administered each week by the health district’s community partners. They include the Greater Prince William Community Health Centers; the Mason and Partners Clinic, which has been giving shots out of the Manassas Park Community Center; and Safeway pharmacy, which has been administering shots from the Veterans Park Community Center.

Avula: State expects ‘an explosion of vaccine’ by late April, early May

In other COVID-19 vaccine updates, Avula said it will likely take until mid-April for the state to vaccinate everyone on the 1b list, which includes all Virginians age 65 and older as well as those with underlying health conditions and those in several essential worker categories. 

But things should start moving more quickly in March, when vaccines from both Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca come online, Avula said. Both require only one shot to be fully vaccinated.

“Johnson & Johnson will come online in early March. Astra Zeneca will come in a few weeks after that. And so I think we’re going to see not a slow linear increase but a more of an explosion of vaccine that comes in at the end of April or early May,” he said.

Avula said the timeline likely means that those on the 1c list, which includes a longer list of essential workers, could become eligible for vaccine only a few weeks before the general public.

Regardless of where Virginians are on the priority list, all are urged to pre-register for the vaccine on the statewide system as soon as possible to reserve their space in line. The statewide system launched on Tuesday and can be accessed here.

Those who registered on local health district lists do not have to re-register on the state list because their information will be merged automatically to the statewide system. The data transfer was taking a few days but should be complete by Saturday, Avula said.

People will not be given a ranked number reflecting their place in line, however, because the list will keep shifting as local health districts search for people higher up in the priority list.

For example, health districts are currently scouring their lists for people age 75 and older and then for people age 65 and older to fulfill the state’s requirement to reserve half of their doses for elderly residents.

Reach Jill Palermo at jpalermo@fauquier.com

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