The Virginia Department of Health says based on new information from the federal government's Operation Warp Speed, the state is now preparing to receive an estimated total of 480,000 doses of vaccine from two manufacturers by the end of December.

This initial distribution will ensure 480,000 health care personneland long-term care facility residents receive a first dose of the vaccine, beginning the inoculation process for nearly all members of Virginia’s two top-priority groups, the Virginia Department of Health said in a news release. The health department estimates there are 500,000 health-care workers and long-term care facility residents in Virginia.

“Vaccine will be provided to Virginians in a way that is fair, ethical, and transparent,” said state Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, M.D., M.A. “We will focus initially on the groups that have been most at risk for severe illness from COVID-19 infections and those whose work puts them at greatest risk of contracting COVID-19 infections. Over time, as more vaccine supply becomes available, more Virginians will be able to get vaccinated, and we can look forward to a time when this pandemic will end.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ on Tuesday voted to formally recommend the two groups as top priorities for vaccination. In response, the Virginia Disaster Medical Advisory Committee and the Virginia Unified Command voted this week to officially adopt those recommendations for priority vaccines.

The first shipment of vaccines is expected to be received from Pfizer in mid-December and will require ultracold storage (negative 70 degrees Celsius). All 72,150 initial doses will be distributed directly to geographically diverse health care systems with ultracold storage capacity, and will go to health care workers who directly care for COVID-19 patients first.

Subsequent weekly shipments are expected to begin after the initial shipment and will be divided among health care workers and nursing home residents. The majority of nursing home residents will receive vaccinations from CVS and Walgreens’ teams onsite through a federal partnership with the CDC. Health care systems and public health will ensure access to vaccination for all of the first doses equitably across the entire state.

Health care personnel are defined as paid and unpaid persons serving in health care settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials. Long-term care facility residents are defined as adults who reside in facilities that provide a variety of services, including medical and personal care, to persons who are unable to live independently.

The actual amount of vaccine received in Virginia is a moving target and dependent on when and how quickly vaccination doses are manufactured, health officials said. VDH is coordinating future prioritization based on federal guidance.

For more information about VDH’s COVID-19 Vaccination Response Plan, visit: www.vdh.virginia.gov/covid-19-vaccine.

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