Virginia is 343,000 first doses away from having 70% of adults vaccinated, but herd immunity may not be possible without immunizing more young people, according to the state's vaccination coordinator, Dr. Danny Avula.
“We've done really well in our 65-and-up population, I mean we're at 80-plus percent there, but where we are not doing as well – and it's not just Virginia, it's everybody – is young people,” Avula said during a news briefing Friday afternoon.
During the call with reporters, Avula said Virginia is on track to meet President Joe Biden’s goal of vaccinating 70% of adults with at least one shot by July 4. As of Saturday, 65.3% of Virginians 18 and up have been vaccinated with at least one dose of the COVID-19 Pfizer or Moderna vaccine according to the Virginia Department of Health. And Avula noted that federal approval of the Pfizer vaccine to be used in adolescents ages 12 to 16 has been critical in helping the state meet this goal.
Over 7.8 million vaccine doses have been administered to Virginia residents so far. The state's population is about 8.6 million.
Northern Virginia is slightly ahead of state numbers, with 69.4% of adults having received at least one dose and 53.6% fully vaccinated, according to data from the Northern Virginia Regional Commission.
However, to reach herd immunity, Avula said vaccinating a much larger percentage of people ages 16 to 30, as well as children below the age of 12, may be required.
“It may not be until we have authorization for younger children that we get to that goal of herd immunity,” he added.
Younger people, ages 20-29, have experienced the largest share of COVID-19 cases, 19.5%, by age group in the state, according to the health department. And Avula said that state and local public health officials have been ramping up their efforts to reach younger people and reduce barriers to obtaining the vaccine.
“We've used some community ambassadors in that age group, but I think it means doing more on site at employers, making it really convenient for young adults who aren't necessarily against being vaccinated, but just haven't been compelled to, to make an appointment or to you know go out of their way to get vaccinated.”
The vaccine coordinator did not provide specifics on whether any of these methods are helping to increase vaccinations among younger people, but he noted that meeting the current goal of 70% of adults with at least one vaccine dose is a step in the right direction.
“It'll take about somewhere between 7,000 and 8,000 new adults ... vaccinated each day for us, for us to meet that goal, which I think we can easily do,” he added.
COVID-19 case and hospitalization numbers continue to improve statewide and in Northern Virginia. As of Saturday, the state's seven-day average of new cases was down to 412.7, its lowest level since April 16, 2020. The seven-day average in Northern Virginia stood at 72.9 cases a day. The average fell as low as 69.3 on Wednesday, the lowest since April 1, 2020.
Hospitalizations for treatment of the virus hit a new low Saturday of 561 statewide since data began being reported in early April 2020, with patients in intensive-care units also at a new low of 159. In Northern Virginia, hospitalizations fell to 125, tied with May 14 as the lowest level since the data were first reported.