Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam lays out state’s three-phased coronavirus vaccine distribution plan

‘The vaccine news is extremely, extremely hopeful,’ said Northam

“First of all, we have every reason to believe that these vaccinations are safe,” said Gov. Ralph Northam, addressing Virginians on Wednesday.

He discussed the two companies, Pfizer and Moderna, that are preparing to roll out their vaccines, which each company says is 95% effective.

Both companies have applied for emergency use authorization from the FDA.

[Where are Virginia’s coronavirus cases? The health department’s interactive map]

In addition to the FDA’s review, the Virginia Department of Health’s vaccination team also has a workgroup doing an independent review of the vaccine data.

This vaccine does not use a live virus, rather, it spurs your body to produce antibodies to the disease, according to the governor.

“As a doctor, I am confident that all protocols have been followed and no corners had been cut and I expect the FDA review will show that,” said Northam.

While eventually, there will be enough vaccine doses for all Virginians, the governor noted that it will take time.

Which Virginians will receive the first vaccinations?

Phase I

In the first wave, once it receives approval, Virginia will receive 70,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine.

Approval and distribution could begin as early as mid-December, said Northam.

Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses, about two weeks apart. It’s expected that the second 70,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine will be ready in time for people’s second doses.

Health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities have been identified on a federal level as the top-priority groups to receive the vaccine.

The decisions for who goes first will be based upon medical ethics and protocols created by the Virginia Hospital and Health Association and the Virginia Disaster Medical Advisory Committee.

That group contains about 500,000 Virginians, according to Northam.

Phase II

Following them comes critical infrastructure staff, adults with high-risk medical conditions and adults ages 65 and older.

Phase III

After that group comes the general public, a group that shouldn’t expect the be eligible anytime soon.

“It will be a ways before we get to the general public,” said Dr. Daniel Carey, Virginia’s Secretary of Health and Human Resources, during Wednesday’s news conference.

How will the COVID-19 vaccine be distributed?

VDH has been working with hospitals, long-term care facilities and community providers for months in preparation for a vaccine distribution plan.

Along with administering the vaccine, these organizations will work with VDH on the following pieces of updating management information system:

  • Vaccine allocation
  • Vaccine ordering/tracking
  • Clinic operations (including appointment scheduling and recording of doses administered)
  • Tracking of doses administred

The vaccine will be administered by hospital systems or facilities equipped with ultra-cold storage facilities, which exist within each region of Virginia.

The state has also partnered with CVS and Walgreens, as well as other pharmacies, and medical offices for vaccine and distribution.

Does Gov. Northam plan to receive the vaccine?


The governor reiterated that point Wednesday, after saying he believes it’s safe.

“When our turn comes, my family and I will have no hesitancy about getting vaccinated and I strongly encourage every Virginian to get the vaccine,” said Northam. “That is our only path to getting back to that near-normal, which we often speak about.”

What happens as Virginians wait to be vaccinated?

Once the process begins, it will still take several months to get people vaccinated.

“For now, and for some months to come, we all need to continue doing the things that we know work. Wearing a mask in public, washing our hands, staying away from crowds and large groups and trying as best we can to socialize outside, said Northam.

“If you want your kids back in school, our small businesses to reopen and thrive and to go to concerts and entertainment events again, there’s only one way to get there. Wear a mask and social distance now and get a vaccine when the time comes,” said Northam.

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