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Virginia health leaders grapple with how to distribute COVID-19 vaccine


RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) – Virginia health officials are grappling with some tough decisions on how to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine.

10 On Your Side spoke with Dr. Laurie Forlano, Virginia’s Deputy Commissioner for Population Health Friday about how they’re making the tough calls.

“I think this is an emotional topic it evokes a lot of emotion and I think that’s reasonable,” she said.

Dr. Forlano understands that people who want the COVID-19 vaccine are anxious, but when there’s not enough of it to go around the state has to prioritize. “These are difficult decisions; every Virginian is important to us in these decisions.”

The ‘us’ Dr. Forlano referred to consists of the state’s Vaccine Advisory Work Group, made up of more than 100 doctors, nurses pharmacists and other health professionals, as well as the Virginia Disaster Medical Advisory Committee.

“The decisions about vaccine prioritization obviously are complex ones. They include considerations for things, important ethical principles, scientific principles,” she said.

For instance, who the vaccine is most effective on she explained. “For example, studies are not yet complete on children, so they’re not considered right now in our priority groups.”

There are also logistics to consider, such as how to ship and store the vaccine that must be kept at an ultra-cold temperature.

“The first priority right now is to get through approximately 500,000 in Virginia that make up the healthcare worker or long term care resident group,” Dr. Forlano said.

So who would be in line to get the vaccine after that group? She answered, “It’s a little hard to get into the weeds on that right now because we don’t know just who those groups are going to be just yet. We’re starting to have those conversations about critical infrastructure workers, essential workers, over the next say week or two.”

Those workers include other healthcare workers, first responders, teachers, port workers, and more.
The state is hoping the CDC will provide some guidance on that as they did the first group.

Virginia is expected to get 70,000 doses this month and then is expected to receive subsequent weekly shipments, according to information released by the Virginia Department of Health on Friday.

The CDC will distribute the vaccine to states based on population. Virginia, Forlano said, makes up about 2.5% of the U.S. population.

For more information about VDH’s COVID-19 Vaccination Response Plan, visit this link.

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