RICHMOND, Va. -- As Virginia’s April 18 deadline to make vaccines available to the general public inched closer, Virginia's Vaccination Coordinator, Dr. Danny Avula said the state would be ready. But he said the significant decrease in Johnson & Johnson vaccines now expected for next week, may slow progress once Phase 2 begins.
"I was a little bit concerned last week when we heard the news about Johnson & Johnson vaccine potentially decreasing. The good news is that it didn't impact our Johnson & Johnson allocations for this week, said Dr. Avula. "And so, the fact that that has come does keep us on track to get to general eligibility by April 18."
However, Dr. Avula said while a decrease in vaccine now expected for next week wouldn't impact the state's ability to get to Phase 2 on time, it could still be problematic.
"So you go from 124,000 doses one week to 15,000 the next week -- that's a big challenge," Dr. Avula said.
He added that due to the decrease in doses, the state may have to push back plans for college-based vaccinations.
"We do know that college kids, you know, engage in riskier behavior from a COVID standpoint," Dr. Avula said.
Originally, the plan was to administer the one-and-done Johnson & Johnson vaccine to college students before they leave for the summer, but the decline in doses pushes plans back a week.
"With college kids we would love to do the one dose vaccine. It makes it way easier than having to coordinate a second dose once they leave and go somewhere else in the state or country -- I think we'll just have to revisit some of those plans, Dr. Avula said. "We may be offering, you know, Moderna or Pfizer to that population, and then figuring out how we do coordinate that or, you know, hopefully things will really turn for the week of the 19th. And we'll see another big infusion of Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which would allow us to do college-based vaccinations on the, you know, close to the schedule we were originally planning to do."
RELATED: Preregister for the COVID-19 vaccine on the Vaccinate Virginia website or call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-275-8343)
In the meantime, in Richmond and Henrico, Richmond Henrico Health District Spokesperson, Cat Long, said significant progress had been made.
"We're really close to entering into Phase Two," said Long.
Long said there were a few thousand people still on the list to be vaccinated under Phase One, and while those lists fluctuate daily, Long said they were on track to enter Phase Two by the April 18 deadline.
She emphasized that people who are 16 and older, and want the shot, should pre-register now at vaccinate.virginia.gov.
Dr. Avula said statewide, they were working with local health districts to provide more options for people to schedule appointments by April 18, using vaccinefinder.org -- a website that allows you to see availabilities near you.
Dr. Avula said he expected by the end of May, everyone who wanted to be vaccinated will be able to at least get their first shot.
"We're a long way from when we started this campaign. And it's amazing to just see, you know, how much vaccination is happening," said Dr. Avula.
Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.
COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.
Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Avoid contact with sick people.
- Avoid non-essential travel.