RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Wednesday that the state is preparing to receive a shipment of COVID-19 vaccines by mid-December.
During the weekly coronavirus news briefing, Northam didn't announce any new COVID-19 restrictions but instead, outlined the state's plan for the distribution of initial shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Northam said the case numbers for the virus continue to rise all across the state -- with the positivity rate increasing to around 8.5%, the highest it has been since early June.
The governor expects that Virginia will receive 70,000 doses of the vaccine from Pfizer. The number of doses is a share that is based on the state’s population size versus the relative need.
Northam is looking forward to a vaccine being worked on by both Pfizer and Moderna -- stating every indication is that these two vaccines are safe for Virginians. He also stated the vaccine will not give COVID-19 to anyone who takes it and is confident all protocols regarding safe immunization practices are being followed.
“We have every reason to believe that these vaccines are safe,” Northam said. “You will not get COVID from this vaccine.”
According to Northam, the initial shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine will go towards healthcare workers, followed by residents at long-term care facilities and others with high-risk health conditions. Virginia State Epidemiologist Dr. Lilian Peake estimates that the total number of people in that initial group is around 500,000.
“We do have a process in place to determine which group is the priority group and how we divide them when we have a limited vaccine,” Peake said.
The Commonwealth is expecting a high demand for the vaccine -- anticipating that there won’t be enough during the first couple of months. The state will follow CDC recommendations on who should be prioritized first to be vaccinated.
The Virginia Department of Health said it has worked since early this summer to ensure that vaccine distribution is equitable for all Virginians.
According to Northam, the first dose from Pfizer will happen at hospital systems since the vaccine requires freezer storage. Both Pfizer and Moderna require two doses -- both three weeks apart. After the first vaccine shipment, Pfizer will send the second dose to those who received the initial COVID-19 vaccine.
Even though the state has been laying plans for distribution for months, Northam pointed out that it would take several months to get everyone in the state vaccinated. Northam hopes the general public will have the opportunity to be vaccinated by the summer of 2021.
"There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but it's going to be a few months," Northam said. "We all have responsibilities in this and we're all part of the solution."
While Virginians wait for their turns to get the vaccine, Northam directed people to maintain the current status quo and follow the recommended safety guidelines -- wear masks, wash hands, avoid large gatherings and social distancing.