Increased COVID vaccine supply could be ‘game-changer’ for New River Valley

The NRV Health District received 5,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Health District looking to host a mass vaccination event soon.

NEW RIVER VALLEY, Va. – New River Valley Health District Director Dr. Noelle Bissell said the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine could be a better fit for some people, especially vulnerable populations.

The district received 5,000 doses of that vaccine on Tuesday, which is more than double the typical 2,000 doses it receives on a weekly basis.

Half of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines will go to pharmacies and partners for the 65+ population. The other half is for frontline essential workers in Phase 1b and those in Phase 1a, as well as high-priority individuals in Phase 1b who waited specifically for the one-dose vaccine.

Since it’s just a single dose, Bissell said it would be a great option for homeless or transient individuals, people living in shelters or anyone incarcerated.

But the district is not only focusing on those groups of people. They are offering the vaccine to anyone who is eligible to get one.

“We offer the Johnson & Johnson out. We aren’t targeting a specific population other than working through our priority groups,” said Bissell.

People can still choose to wait for the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines and they won’t lose their spot on the prioritization list.

The NRV Public Health Task Force is planning a large vaccination event on Monday, March 8, to distribute a big chunk of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines. The event is by appointment only.

They are also planning a State of the Pandemic Town Hall on Thursday, March 11 at 6 p.m.

Bissell and other task force members will be available to talk about recent developments in the pandemic, vaccination efforts and things moving forward.

Bissell said all three vaccines are very effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death.

She said currently, people can’t mix and match the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for their second dose. There are ongoing studies about this now.

Overall, Bissell noted that COVID-19 cases are trending down. Half of the NRV district is eligible under Phase 1b, so it will take time to get to everyone.

“We’re not going to get to a COVID zero. There will be COVID,” said Bissell.

Bissell added that they have gotten through the bulk of 65+ population and currently, there are no outbreaks in long-term care facilities in the district.

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