Carilion Clinic officials prepare for COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Distribution will be prioritized for at-risk groups

ROANOKE, Va. – Despite the ongoing surge, health experts stress hope is on the horizon with all but certain COVID-19 vaccine approval from the FDA this week.

Officials at Carilion Clinic told 10 News they expect the vaccine to arrive locally sometime over the weekend.

There are still lots of questions about what that rollout for the vaccine will look like, but experts say any return to normalcy will depend on it.

“Carilion is all set with freezer space, not only that’s enough for our facilities, but also for other facilities in the region as needed,” said Dr. Paul Skolnik, chair of medicine at Carilion Clinic.

Carilion Clinic is set to receive the Pfizer vaccine initially and possibly the Moderna vaccine later on.

Distribution to the prioritized, at-risk health care workers and nursing home patients is expected sometime next week.

The timeline for others is still unclear, but in the meantime, doctors are encouraging trust and confidence.

Skolnik said both vaccines that could be heading to southwest Virginia have been proven to be 95% with very mild side effects for some that are typically gone in a day.

“The benefit of protecting yourself against COVID-19 and stopping the spread of COVID-19 far outweigh any minor sorts of side effects” said Skolnik.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam echoes that message.

“It’s our hope moving forward and it’s really our only way of putting this pandemic behind us and letting us get back to our near normal lives,” said Northam, appearing on CNBC Wednesday, threatening possible further restrictions that could be announced on Thursday.

While doctors say the prospect of the vaccine is a light at the end of the tunnel, they say it doesn’t justify ending COVID-19 safety and social distancing protocols.

Health experts say the vaccine won’t mean a return to normal life right away, but rather, they still urge people to practice social distancing, avoid large gatherings and wear masks.

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