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'Mass vaccination centers’ planned in Virginia to reach 50,000 shots daily goal

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Posted at 7:05 PM, Jan 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-14 19:36:33-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- The doctor in charge of Virginia's vaccine rollout plan said mass vaccination centers are in the works as Gov. Ralph Northam revealed Thursday that nearly half of all Virginians will soon be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

The governor said he is following federal guidance and moving a portion of the population up from Phase 1c to 1b.

"They told us states should immediately expand vaccinations to 65 and up and those under 64 who have a comorbid condition," Northam said.

Additionally, the governor said that all health districts should be at the stage by the end of the month.

Currently, only 11 health districts are in Phase 1b as of this week, while Central Virginia begins Monday.

And as more people become eligible, Virginia officials want to be able to vaccinate more people per day.

The seven-day average for doses administered in the Commonwealth currently is close to 12,000, according to the health department.

Richmond and Henrico County's Health Director Dr. Danny Avula, who was tasked with running Virginia's vaccine rollout, said part of that will be expanding who can administer the vaccine.

"This week, and in future weeks, you'll see more and more vaccine coming to private providers and to pharmacies," Avula said.

Mass vaccination centers

However, Avula said mass vaccination centers around the state will be needed in order to get to the governor's goal of 50,000 vaccinations per day.

"We're right now mapping out places across the Commonwealth that are already doing this. Fairfax was able to get 4,000 individuals vaccinated in a day at their government center and they're doing about 1,000 doses a day at some of their different sites," Avula said. "Virginia Beach Convention Center did almost 1,000 doses a day in one day this past week. We did 800 here at Arthur Ashe. And so we are quickly getting to scale, but we need to get to the staffing model that allows that consistent delivery of doses day in day out and gets us to our 50,000 doses a day."

As a result, the doctor said the centers, which would be open six to seven day a week, will be initially partnered with health departments, health systems and the Virginia Medical Reserve Corps.

"But eventually our goal is to get this staffed by the National Guard and by contracted vaccinators who will be able to provide this service in large scale," Avula said.

Avula said those centers would eventually be run by contractors or the National Guard.

The doctor said additional details about mass vaccination could come as soon as next week.

Northam said the goal is that at the end of each week all of Virginia's shipment of the vaccine will have been used.

"We're modifying our plan as we move forward to be able to accept the doses that are sent to us and to be able to put those, give them to individuals across Virginia as expeditiously and safely as we can," Northam said.

But as the vaccine rollout continues, the cases of COVID continue to remain high compared with a few months ago and Northam was asked about imposing further restrictions.

Northam said he has already put some stringent measures in place, but added that all options are on the table and will be used if needed.