Virginia shifts focus of vaccination efforts as demand has peaked

Posted at 4:35 PM, May 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-03 18:16:01-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia says it's shifting the focus of their COVID-19 vaccination efforts going forward as they say demand across the state has peaked.

State Vaccine Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula says this past week was the first since the COVID-19 vaccination efforts began that the supply-demand curve shifted all over the state, with Northern Virginia and parts of Richmond now joining that category.

He says that as a result, they're looking at different ways to either reach out to those who are still hesitant about getting the vaccine or making it easier to get one.

On the latter point, Avula says that struggles such as internet access, language barriers or transportation have made it difficult for some to get the vaccine. They are addressing this problem by allowing more walk-up appointments at large vaccination sites or mobile clinics or by putting pop-up clinics into communities.

On the hesitancy aspect, it means sending vaccines to primary care providers who have established relationships with people who still may be unsure about getting it and changing the directives they've given to those providers.

"Now that we're on the other side of the supply-demand curve, our providers need to know that when they receive the vaccine, they don't have to use it all in that week," Avula said. "They'll actually have more time to be able to use that vaccine over the course of a couple of weeks. And even the language from the CDC has changed, the CDC has said you know, we don't want to miss any opportunity to vaccinate the person in front of you."

"We're seeing in the surveys that people are probably more willing to get vaccinated if it's recommended by their physician," Bryan Lewis at the University of Virginia's Biocomplexity Institute said.

Lewis calls this the vaccine acceptance threshold and says they've calculated how it varies throughout the state's regions.

"In many parts of the state, we're only at like 50%. Overall, some regions are a little bit higher, but others are, are a little bit lower," Lewis said.

Lewis says that could mean more chances for the virus to spread.

"There are still enough folks out there that aren't vaccinated are immune through natural processes to create a significant surge. It's not that it's going to happen, it's just that it is still there," Lewis said.

Lewis says the only way to end the threat of virus spread is to get vaccines into people's arms.

He says because of the different acceptance rates, some regions could reach what they call "community immunity" months ahead of others. He also says Virginia's change in approach is a good strategy to help address that but says until that time, people need to continue to follow preventative measures.

"It really does still rely on us, and a little vaccine that we've got out there now, to continue with some of the controls that we've had in place to sort of keep things in this downward trajectory that we've been in," Lewis said.

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