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The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has announced vaccination priorities for the Commonwealth as well as plans to begin distributing and administering COVID-19 vaccine before the end of the year.
The creation and distribution of COVID-19 vaccine is one of the most critical steps toward protecting those at highest risk of the disease and eventually bringing an end to the pandemic. As vaccine first becomes available later this month to the priority groups, here are eight things all of us should know about preparations for vaccine distribution over the coming months:
1. Virginia has adopted the prioritization recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Virginia is expected to receive approximately 480,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of December 2020. The initial distribution will be provided to two groups that have been identified as the top two priority groups: (1) health care personnel; and (2) long-term care facility residents. The priorities decision is intended to allocate initial vaccine supplies in a way that maximizes benefits and minimizes harms, promotes justice, and mitigates health inequities.
2. The safety of COVID-19 vaccines has been—and continues to be—a top priority. The U.S. vaccine safety system ensures that all vaccines are as safe and effective as possible. The COVID-19 vaccine has been developed using proven methods. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will approve only vaccines that have passed rigorous standards for use in the U.S.
3. Be patient; eventually there will be enough vaccine for everyone. There may be a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine at first, which must be used for the priority groups. But, supplies of vaccine will continually increase in the weeks and months ahead. The goal is for everyone to be able to easily get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as large quantities are available. It is likely that you will eventually be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine at your doctor’s office, retail pharmacies, hospitals and federally qualified health centers.
4. The COVID-19 vaccine will be free. Because ensuring that everyone who can receive a COVID-19 vaccine receives one is a critical part of ending the pandemic, the vaccine will be free to everyone. The federal government has indicated that it will provide vaccine doses at no cost to the public.
5. At first, COVID-19 vaccines may not be recommended for young children. Early vaccine testing has focused on adults. Because children’s immune systems are different, more research is desired to ensure COVID-19 vaccine will be safe and effective for younger people.
6. Don’t stop taking COVID-19 prevention precautions. The vaccine is just one part of the public health measures that will bring an end to the pandemic. We all must remain vigilant in continuing to practice the same steps that we’ve accomplished throughout 2020: covering your mouth and nose with a face covering when in public; washing hands often; staying at least 6 feet away from others; staying home when sick; and avoiding crowds of people, parties at peoples’ homes and other gatherings. Even after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, you may not be protected for an additional month—after receiving the booster dose—and your body has time to develop protective antibodies.
7. Get a flu vaccine. Getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever during the 2020-2021 flu season because protecting yourself, your family and your community from influenza will also help reduce the burden on our health care systems that are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, in part, by saving medical resources for care of COVID-19 patients. If you have not yet received a flu vaccine, get vaccinated now.
8. Stay informed. More information about the COVID-19 vaccine is rapidly evolving. Be sure to follow credible sources of information about the deployment of COVID-19 vaccine.