Va. hospital systems begin receiving COVID vaccine shipments
11,000 doses arrived at Sentara Healthcare on Monday
Sentara Healthcare and Bon Secours Health System received portions of the state’s first shipment of Pfizer Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine Monday, and other health systems in the state are anticipating delivery later today or Tuesday. Vaccinations are expected to begin for health care workers by Wednesday, according to hospital officials.
Virginia expects to receive 72,150 doses of the vaccine, which was approved Friday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and provided to hospital systems across the country beginning Monday. Health care providers working directly with COVID patients are top priority and receiving the first vaccines.
Eighteen health facilities across the commonwealth are receiving shipments of the first doses Monday and Tuesday, according to the Virginia Department of Health, which did not disclose which hospitals are included since the general public will not receive the vaccines until after health care workers and long-term care residents are vaccinated, a plan that follows Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Virginia expects to receive 480,000 doses by the end of the year from Pfizer and Moderna, which will cover most of the people in these groups statewide. The vaccines are not mandatory.
Sentara announced Monday that it received its delivery of 11,700 doses of the Pfizer vaccine this morning, and vaccination is expected to start at Sentara hospitals Wednesday, according to officials. These doses will be given to staff members in emergency departments, ICUs, COVID units, respiratory units and other hospital staffers who enter these areas, such as food service employees. The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses spaced three weeks apart, and the health system expects to receive an additional shipment with the second dose of the vaccine later.
Some hospitals, including at least one in Richmond and one in Hampton Roads, have begun receiving shipments Monday, according to the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association. Gov. Ralph Northam on Monday visited a Bon Secours hospital in Richmond that had received its shipment. The University of Virginia Health System expects to receive its allotment by noon Tuesday, according to a spokesperson, with vaccinations scheduled for mid-afternoon. Carilion Clinic and Riverside Health both expect to begin vaccinations this week, and the VCU Medical Center announced that it anticipates shipment Tuesday and vaccinations to begin Wednesday.
Health systems nationwide scrambled to get ultra-cold storage equipment to keep the Pfizer vaccine at -70 degrees Celsius as required, and VDH reported that health systems throughout the state have such storage available. The Moderna vaccine, which is likely to be approved by the FDA later in the week, has to be kept at about -20 degrees Celsius, closer to what a regular freezer provides. Once Moderna can distribute its vaccine later in December, Virginia will begin inoculating staff and residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, state health authorities have said. Other Virginians who aren’t at as high a risk will receive vaccines later through local pharmacies.
“These initial doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are a much-needed symbol of hope for our commonwealth and our country,” Northam said in a statement Monday. “With this remarkable medical achievement, we are beginning to see the light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. Yet even in this moment of celebration, we must remember that this is the first step in a months-long process to receive, distribute, and administer the vaccine as it becomes available. I ask everyone to stay vigilant, take care of each other, and continue following the public health guidelines as we work to vaccinate Virginians in a safe, efficient, equitable manner.”