RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Dr. Danny Avula, Virginia’s head of vaccine rollout, gave an update on Virginia’s current vaccination efforts on Wednesday.
The main focus of the briefing was to talk about the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Within the next couple of days, Avula said Virginia would receive around 69,000 doses of the vaccine. In the first couple of weeks, the newly approved single-dose vaccine will be prioritized for mass vaccination events, which would start Friday.
Avula said he believes the J&J vaccine would best work for people who will present more of a challenge to be located. He listed people in hospitals, those being transferred to long/short-term rehabilitation facilities, the homeless community and other groups as examples.
The director addressed concerns from the public about the efficacy of the J&J vaccine.
Avula said there is nothing trickier about the J&J vaccine compared to the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. He said, actually, a single-dose is easier logistically.
However, he understands why eyebrows are raised regarding the difference in efficacy with the vaccines. During the briefing, he ensured that all three vaccines are safe and that residents should take whichever vaccine they’re eligible for.
Avula said health officials have to be ultra clear about what vaccines people are getting and signing up for in order to be completely transparent and by June, residents should be able to sign up and register for whichever vaccine they want.
Avula said that the increase in vaccine supply will change the focus of the vaccination process. Up until this point, vaccine distribution has been “all about constrained supply and how we make sure it gets to right places,” Avula said.
Looking toward the rest of this month, vaccinating the most vulnerable is still a top priority, but with increased supply, the process will also revolve around making sure the vaccine is getting out through all the channels possible, and that people know how to get access to it, Avula said.
Avula said he believes we’re just two to three weeks away from “saturating” the “65-and-up demand.”
As far as registering Virginians for vaccine appointments, the state is still working to transition pharmacies to using the state pre-registration list to make appointments. For the most part, pharmacies are working off that list.
CVS is continuing to use its own process to set up appointments with customers. The Albertson Group (Safeway) has been using its own process, but is now reconsidering, Avula said.
Seven of the eight districts in the state that have Walgreens stores are now using the state registration process for those 65 and up, as is Walmart.
The number of pharmacies using the state’s list is a “changing environment every day,” Avula said.
For more information regarding COVID-19 vaccines and cases visit the Virginia Department of Health website here.