HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Virginia's vaccine coordinator, Dr. Danny Avula, received his COVID-19 vaccine Thursday morning at the mass vaccination clinic at Richmond Raceway in Henrico County.
Avula was given the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot, which he said he had planned to get to encourage folks who may have been hesitant about the newly approved vaccine. But he said hesitancy about the J&J vaccine has not been an issue in Virginia.
When the FDA gave an emergency use authorization to J&J's one-shot vaccine in late February, it became the third coronavirus shot allowed to be administered to Americans.
Initial results released by Johnson & Johnson in February indicated that the vaccine reduced severe instances of the disease by 85 percent, and no person who took the vaccine died as a result.
The findings also found that the vaccine was 66 percent effective in completely preventing the disease. The two vaccines that have been approved for emergency use both showed to be more than 90% effective in preventing all cases of the disease.
RELATED: Preregister for the COVID-19 vaccine on the Vaccinate Virginia website or call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-275-8343)
Avula said he is looking forward to gathering with family members and friends in small groups who are also fully vaccinated without having to wear masks or social distance.
However, the vaccine czar said it is still important to be careful.
“I’m going to both be excited about this newfound freedom, but also be cautious as we move forward until we really see rates of disease start to decrease in our community,” he said.
Avula was one of the thousands in Phase 1c that became eligible Wednesday to set-up a COVID-19 vaccination appointment. He said the health districts who have not yet moved to Phase 1c will do so by next week at the latest.
Health departments will continue to offer vaccine opportunities for folks eligible in Phases 1a and 1b.
Virginia is slated to enter Phase 2, which includes everyone 16 and older, beginning Sunday, April 18. That is nearly two weeks ahead of President Joe Biden's May 1 nationwide goal to open vaccinations to every adult who wants one, but Virginia officials said health departments could begin Phase 2 earlier based on the progress they make with the 1c population.
More than 2.5 million people in Virginia have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, which equates to 30.1% of the state's population, as of Thursday, according to the health department. About 16% of the state’s population have been fully vaccinated.
Those who want to be vaccinated are asked to pre-register on the state's Vaccinate Virginia website at vaccinate.virginia.gov or call the state's vaccination hotline 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-275-8343).