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The first batch of coronavirus vaccines have arrived in Virginia.


The first batch of coronavirus vaccines have arrived in Virginia. Here's what comes next.

The first batch of coronavirus vaccines has arrived in Virginia.

On Monday, Sentara Healthcare — a Norfolk-based organization with 21 hospital sites across the state — received its first shipment of 11,700 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Approximately 20,800 doses of the Moderna vaccine are set to arrive in a week. In the Richmond area, a Bon Secours hospital also received its allotment of doses. VCU Medical Center expects its supply on Tuesday.

Virginia is slated to fill 480,000 syringes with vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna by the end of the year. The initial shipment of 72,150 doses is being distributed statewide Monday and Tuesday.

 

As doses rolled out across the country Monday, the first American — a critical care nurse in New York — was injected with the vaccine, marking a leap in efforts to beat back a virus that has killed more than 300,000 people in the U.S.

This round of vaccinations prioritizes front-line health care workers and long-term care staff and residents.

 

As of Monday, there had been more than 15,860 COVID-19 cases among health care workers in Virginia. Long-term care facilities account for nearly half of the state’s 4,414 COVID-19 deaths.

During a news conference last week, Gov. Ralph Northam indicated that members of the general public could be eligible for vaccination by early summer.

 

There is currently no requirement for any Virginian to receive it, but herd immunity — or a population’s resistance to spread — is reached when around 50% to 75% of people are vaccinated.

Vaccinations at Sentara, the first hospital system in the state to report a vaccine shipment, will not begin until Wednesday, when the doses have been distributed across its 11 additional hospital sites within the state. None of those is in Richmond, but at least one Bon Secours hospital in the area received its first allotment on Monday.

VCU Medical Center anticipates its first vaccine shipment of roughly 3,800 doses to arrive on Tuesday, with vaccinations starting Wednesday for front-line workers, including those in long-term care facilities.

 
 

On Monday, the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association did not have the number of doses the Richmond area will receive, spokesperson Julian Walker said.

“One reason it’s difficult to specify how many doses per region is because the initial shipments are going to a set number of hospitals,” said Walker, adding that the number is fewer than 20. “Many ... will redistribute a portion of the initial allocation to other facilities that may or may not all be in Richmond. So divvying up those numbers gets a little tricky.”

On a call with reporters Monday afternoon to reveal what comes next, the head of Sentara’s COVID-19 Vaccine Taskforce, Mary Morin, said vaccines will be offered by appointment seven days a week and that the first phase will be health care workers in the COVID units, a population Morin estimates is about 12,500 people.

Then, vaccinations will expand into the broader health care systems to include essential personnel, medical crews in home health and hospice areas, and health care professionals in the Department of Corrections. This follows state and federal guidelines on vaccine distribution.

 

Those receiving the Pfizer vaccine, which was 95% effective in trials among thousands of volunteers, will have their second dosage three weeks after the first. Health officials have deemed the second round the most important.

“These initial doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are a much-needed symbol of hope for our Commonwealth and our country,” Gov. Ralph Northam said in a statement. “With this remarkable medical achievement, we are beginning to see the light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.”

“Yet even in this moment of celebration,” the governor added, “we must remember that this is the first step in a months-long process to receive, distribute, and administer the vaccine as it becomes available.”

Reports from the U.K., where people began receiving the Pfizer vaccine last week, have indicated a small number of people had allergic reactions following the first doses. Health officials called the reactions extremely rare, with benefits outweighing the side effects. As a precautionary measure, Morin said those with a history of severe allergic reactions will be screened prior to the first dose.

After all health care workers and staff and residents of long-term care facilities have received the two doses, essential workers and people at high risk of complications from the virus are next in line. As of Monday, it’s not clear how the state will prioritize people in those groups.

However, nearly 275,000 Black and Hispanic Virginians bolster essential industries statewide — including child care providers, health care workers and cleaning staff — and coronavirus vaccines face a significant trust gap among Black and Latino communities, according to a September study from the COVID Collaborative, a coalition of health and education experts and economists founded by Harvard University.

More than 70% of Black and Latino respondents said confidence in the vaccine’s effectiveness was “extremely” important in the decision to get vaccinated, yet only 18% of Black respondents reported trusting its effectiveness, compared with 40% of Latinos.

Only 14% of Black Americans and 34% of Latinos said they trust its safety.

Local health departments and health systems reported having teams focused on these populations. As they did with COVID-19 testing, they will approach vaccination efforts with the goals of demystifying the process and making comprehensive information widely available to underserved communities.

Hesitation was also noted in a study released Monday by Virginia Commonwealth University, which found that roughly 53% of respondents said they were unlikely to get a vaccine under an emergency use authorization.

The Food and Drug Administration approved Pfizer’s vaccine for emergency use on Friday.

 

smoreno@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6103

Twitter: @sabrinaamorenoo

Staff writer Eric Kolenich contributed to this report.