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State prepares for vaccine distribution

Published: Nov. 30, 2020 at 8:02 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - As federal officials move closer to approving a COVID-19 vaccine, health officials in Virginia are preparing to begin distributing the vaccine, perhaps as early as December.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Lilian Peake briefed members of the House Committee on Health Welfare and Institutions Monday afternoon.

“When a vaccine is approved by the FDA, we will immediately receive doses from the federal government,” Peake said, “and that could be as early as mid-December for that Pfizer vaccine.”

Peake said Virginia will use a phased approach, with front line health care workers and long-term care facility residents and staff the most likely to be first in line. But with a limited allocation of vaccines, Peake told members of the committee that initial supplies might not reach all those people right away.

“Early on, there likely wouldn’t be enough for all health care workers,” Peake said. “And so that will have to be broken down into subgroups. The level to which it’s broken down is going to depend on how much vaccine we have and we don’t know that yet.”

On lawmakers’ minds: how to make sure all communities have equal access to the vaccine. “Prioritizing health care workers, definitely understand that,” said Delegate Cia Price (D-Hampton), “but in those next steps how we make a limited supply equitable, that is an important conversation.”

That conversation continues. Planning began over the summer. A 100-member advisory group has been meeting since September and local health departments are preparing as well.

We could see vaccinations begin here in Virginia in a couple of weeks, but health officials say it will take some time before the vaccine is available to everyone who wants it.

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