More vaccine going to Richmond and NoVa, as demand increases
Avula says out-of-town travelers to Danville shows need
More COVID-19 vaccine doses are going to be allocated to Northern Virginia and Richmond regions soon, the state’s vaccine coordinator said Friday, addressing higher demand in those areas of the state. Avula said he expects Northern Virginia to get 20% to 30% more doses next week.
A large influx of Virginians driving several hours to Danville to get shots in recent days illustrated the point of high demand in certain areas, Dr. Danny Avula said during his press call Friday. Danville was one of the first health districts in the state to enter phase 1c and was the first Virginia locality to open a Federal Emergency Management Agency-funded community vaccination center offering about 3,000 appointments per day.
On Reddit and other social media sites, people learned that Danville had lower than expected demand for those shots after the clinic was open for a few days. In came hundreds of shot seekers from Richmond, Harrisonburg, Roanoke and Charlottesville, which are still in phase 1b, according to news reports. Many were responding to rumors that doses were going to waste in Danville — but that was not the case, Avula said.
Out-of-towners have now been told by VDH officials they will not get shots without a vaccination appointment at Danville’s clinic, but Avula says that the state is now responding to demand by allocating more doses to communities that have higher populations and, critically, more interest in being vaccinated than other communities.
The reasons behind lower demand in Danville are multiple, Avula noted. Although some people can’t travel to a vaccination clinic or have some other access issue, there also are a considerable number of politically conservative Virginians statewide who are hesitant to get shots, he added. As more people get vaccinated, the state will see more unvaccinated people who are nervous or don’t want a shot, especially going into the summer.
The state is still focused on vaccinating people at higher risk — Black and Latino residents, people with existing medical conditions and people older than 65 — but as those high-priority people receive vaccination, the Virginia Department of Health is looking to send more doses to areas that have more people pre-registered.
The state is expecting to get more doses of the three vaccines — Pfizer Inc., Moderna and the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine — next week. This week, Virginia got 49,000 J&J doses, and that’s expected to double next week to 100,000, and reaching 150,000 doses per week going into April. Pfizer sent more than 250,000 doses this week, and Moderna delivered close to 200,000 doses.
The state also is adapting how it distributes doses.
In Danville, Avula said, the health district is transitioning to a “hub and spoke model,” in which there will be a brick-and-mortar location for vaccination as well as mobile units traveling to Pittsylvania County. Also, as pharmacies receive more doses from the federal government — the number reached 208,000 doses this week — workplaces are hosting on-site vaccination, such as at poultry plants, Avula said.
More regions have entered phase 1c — in addition to Southern Virginia and Eastern Shore, the region around Lynchburg and parts of Northern and northwest Virginia — although not the most populated localities of Alexandria and Fairfax, Loudoun, Arlington and Prince William counties.
Next week, Norfolk will open the state’s fifth FEMA-funded clinic, joining Danville, Petersburg, Portsmouth and Prince William County, Avula said.
Workers from sectors including energy, higher education, finance, legal and housing and construction are included in group 1c, as well as water, waste removal, food service, transportation and logistics, information technology and communication, media and public safety, and public health workers not included in earlier vaccination phases.
Vaccines are still given only through appointment, VDH officials emphasize, and they advise everyone who has already registered at vaccinate.virginia.gov to check and update your information so call center employees or health district workers can contact you for an appointment.