RICHMOND, Va. -- Health experts in Central Virginia say the FDA's approval of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine is a turning point in the course of the pandemic.
Governor Ralph Northam says vaccines will roll out as soon as Sunday to two vulnerable groups of people in Virginia -- seniors in long-term care facilities and healthcare workers.
Joan Kerby lives in the Lakewood Retirement Community in Henrico, and hopes to get vaccinated soon.
"I will take whatever I can get just to not be so isolated," Kerby said. "It'll be a big relief."
Kerby lives independently at Lakewood, but the facility also offers assisted living care. Kerby says those in higher levels of care will be first priority, but she hopes to be included in the initial group to receive the shot.
"I would feel safer if I went into a grocery store, safer buying gas for the car, being out among people," she said.
Initial doses are also on the way to front line workers.
Internalist and hospitalist at VCU Health, Dr. Alan Dow, said VCU Health will receive nearly 4,000.
“We’ve had a number of healthcare workers across the country that have gotten sick and died from COVID," said Dr. Dow.
He said bedside workers and those taking care of COVID-19 patients will get vaccinated first. He expects to receive his shot mid-January.
Dr. Dow also recognizes some healthcare workers are hesitant about receiving the vaccine.
“I think with anything new, particularly something that has happened this quickly, there are going to be people that have doubts," said Dr. Dow. "What's important to know is this has been carefully vetted."
According to Interim Chief Medical Officer of VCU Medical Center, Dr. David Lanning, a system is in place to track employees' potential reactions or side effects.
Dr. Lanning says side effects could include fever or fatigue. He's anticipating that some workers may call out of work the day after receiving a shot, but mentions only a small fraction will likely experience symptoms.
“I would just encourage those to really look at the data and rely on the experts that it is safe," said Dr. Lanning.
While Kerby waits for her vaccine, she says she's just happy to know front line workers will be protected from COVID-19.
"They've put their lives on the line for everyone," she said. "They deserve to be thanked by getting the vaccine."
To get the virus under control, health officials say at least 70% of the population needs to be vaccinated.
According to Virginia Department of Health, that could happen in the spring or summer of next year as more vaccines become available.
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.