COVID roundup: Johnson & Johnson vaccine headed to Va. this week
New recorded deaths rise higher due to processing delay
Virginia expects to receive its first allocation of 69,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses produced by Johnson & Johnson this week, along with about 360,000 more doses from Moderna and Pfizer Inc., the Virginia Department of Health announced this weekend.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — which requires only one dose to be effective — for emergency use Saturday. Dr. Danny Avula, the state’s vaccine coordinator, said Friday in his weekly news conference that the state will receive fewer doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine after this week until the last week of March, when the company is expected to produce more doses.
According to VDH, the Johnson & Johnson doses “will be prioritized for mass vaccination clinics across the state. An additional allotment is expected to be sent to pharmacies participating in a federal partnership to help vaccinate priority groups, such as those 65 and older, at no cost.”
Avula predicts that Virginians in group 1b — including people ages 65 and older, younger people with underlying health conditions and essential workers — will all be able to get at least their first shot by April, and that state health district employees and call center workers will be contacting people who are preregistered on the state’s vaccine website to set up appointments this week.
Meanwhile, nearly 1.3 million people in Virginia — 15.2% of the population — have received at least one vaccine dose, according to VDH’s update Monday, and 686,289 people have been vaccinated fully. The state has received 2.4 million vaccine doses so far, and the state is administering about 42,000 shots per day, according to data from the past week.
Last week’s death totals are higher than usual because VDH is currently processing 2021 death certificates related to the post-holiday surge in COVID-19 cases. Recorded last week were 1,297 COVID-related fatalities, a significant increase from the previous week’s 470 deaths. The state reported 11,904 new cases last week, continuing its decrease in infection rates. The state’s current seven-day positivity rate is 7.1%, down from 8.3% last week.
Since last spring, the state has reported 8,783 deaths and 577,174 cases.
The state slipped from 16th to 17th in the nation for its percentage of doses administered, according to data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed by Becker’s Hospital Review. That’s likely because of an influx last week of vaccine doses delayed by winter weather the week before.
This week, the state’s health districts are receiving 180,000 first doses and 130,000 second doses from Pfizer and Moderna, and eight pharmacy groups are administering 52,000 doses received directly from the federal government, which have been earmarked for Virginians age 65 and older. In addition to CVS, which is still receiving 26,000 doses weekly, the other 26,000 weekly doses are being distributed among Walgreens, Walmart, Safeway, Giant, Food City, Food Lion and locally owned pharmacies. Walmart is not administering shots at stores but is setting up pop-up clinics in four locations a week across the state depending on need. In all cases, patients must have an appointment.
Last month, VDH launched a statewide vaccine registration website for all Virginia residents who want a vaccine, as well as a phone hotline staffed by 750 employees from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Anyone who registered earlier with their local health district can call the hotline if their information does not show up at vaccinate.virginia.gov. The number is (877) VAX-IN-VA, or (877) 829-4682.
With race and ethnicity information available for only 67.9% of people who have received shots in the state, the majority of shots have been received by white, non-Hispanic people — 71.0% as of Monday, according to VDH. Black Virginians have received 13.3% of shots, although they make up 19.9% of the state’s population, according to 2019 estimates by the U.S. Census; 5.5% of vaccines were given to Latino residents, who comprise about 9.8% of Virginians.
State health officials have focused attention on equitable vaccination, especially as Latino and Black residents are heavily represented among people who have been infected, hospitalized and died from the coronavirus. Among Virginia’s COVID deaths in which ethnicity and race are recorded, 23.9% were Black, and 6.8% were Latino.
As of Feb. 25, the following health districts have positivity rates of 10% or higher:
- Hampton — 15%, down from 15.9% on Feb. 18
- Pittsylvania-Danville — 13.2%, down from 14.2%
- Chesapeake — 13.1%, down from 13.7%
- Portsmouth — 12.4%, down from 17.2%
- Piedmont (Amelia, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Lunenburg, Nottoway and Prince Edward counties) — 12.1%, up from 9.5%
- Peninsula (Newport News, Poquoson, Williamsburg, James City and York counties) — 10.7%, down from 12.2%
- Eastern Shore — 10.6%, up from 9%
- Virginia Beach — 10.3%, down from 11.2%
- Western Tidewater (cities of Franklin and Suffolk and Isle of Wight and Southampton counties) — 10.2%, down from 10%
Globally, there are 114.2 million reported COVID-19 cases and 2,534,195 confirmed deaths, as of March 1. The United States, which has the most confirmed cases and deaths worldwide, has seen 28.6 million confirmed cases so far, with 513,393 deaths attributed to the coronavirus since February 2020.