BIGSTOCK MASK HANDS COVID-19 CORONAVIRUS INSIDENOVA

Gov. Ralph Northam has announced $22 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding will be used to create a statewide program to distribute COVID-19 vaccines when such vaccines are approved for public use.

Virginia’s draft vaccination plan was submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) earlier this month. Several companies are working to create COVID-19 vaccines, which are expected to be finalized and approved for distribution in the coming months.

A mass vaccination program such as this requires significant advance planning for purchases of equipment, support for local health districts, staff to manage the program, warehousing medical supplies, and communicating with the public, Northam said in a news release. 

“We look forward to the day that a safe vaccine for COVID-19 is available for public use, so that we can get closer to living normal lives,” Northam said. “We want to be ready to help Virginians get that vaccine as quickly, efficiently, and safely as possible. This funding will support the Virginia Department of Health’s vaccine preparations, so distribution will go more smoothly when a vaccine becomes available. I encourage Virginians to get this vaccine when it is available—that is our best way to end this pandemic.”

The $22 million allocation of CARES Act dollars will support the Virginia Department of Health’s vaccination preparation and planning through the end of 2020. The commonwealth will identify additional sources of funding to continue to support the vaccination program in 2021. The Virginia Department of Health’s estimates the vaccination program will cost approximately $120 million.

The plan outlines key components for preparing and implementing a COVID-19 vaccination program including:

  • Assumptions, variables, and scenarios that can impact vaccine planning
  • Measures to identify and estimate critical populations and establish vaccine priority groups
  • Measures for provider recruitment, enrollment, and training
  • Process for vaccine allocation, ordering, distribution, inventory management, and reporting doses administered
  • Guidelines for appropriate vaccine storage and handling
  • Methods for second dose reminders to ensure compliance with vaccine dosing intervals (most COVID-19 vaccines require two doses separated by 21 or 28 days) and achieve optimal vaccine effectiveness
  • Systems for vaccine safety monitoring
  • Procedures for vaccination program monitoring, including online dashboards
  • Efforts to build confidence and inform the public about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, working with trusted community partners

The Virginia Department of Health, like health departments in other states, is following guidance from CDC in preparing for vaccine distribution, and will ensure that a vaccine is distributed equitably. It is not currently known what vaccines might ultimately be approved of those in development, which means the Virginia Department of Health’s planning must be flexible.

Vaccines may require more than one dose and may require storage at specific cold temperatures to remain effective. Health officials are planning for ways to vaccinate large numbers of people while maintaining social distancing.

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