The Bulletin

Virginia will get 100,000 fewer initial COVID-19 doses than anticipated

By: - December 18, 2020 10:01 am

A provider with Augusta Health administers a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in December. (Courtesy of Augusta Health)

Virginia is now expected to receive more than 100,000 fewer doses of COVID-19 vaccine than state officials projected earlier this month.

The Virginia Department of Health did not explain why the projections were lower than anticipated. But in a Friday news release, the agency said estimates from the federal government could continue to change as states and the federal government proceed with vaccination plans.

“CDC and Operation Warp Speed provide regular estimates to states for vaccine distribution planning; these estimates remain subject to change,” the release reads. “VDH is working closely with the CDC to ensure a smooth and equitable vaccine deployment.”

The state originally projected it would receive 480,000 doses. Now, it expects 370,650.

Multiple states have already announced that their second allocations of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine — currently the only candidate that’s received emergency approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — were lower than previously announced. McClatchy’s Washington, D.C. bureau reported Thursday that the Pentagon system set up to track vaccine distribution had outdated and inaccurate projections. As a result, the federal government told many states they would receive more doses of vaccine in the coming weeks than were actually available.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Lilian Peake spoke with the Mercury on Thursday afternoon and said VDH didn’t know if its second allotment would be lower than expected. At the time, she said the state was waiting to hear back from Pfizer on how many doses officials would be able to order.

“We expect to be given a firm number so we can place our order for next week,” Peake said. The state has already ordered around 146,000 doses of a second vaccine from the pharmaceutical company Moderna, which is expected to be approved by the FDA today.

The state’s original projection of 480,000 expected doses was met with jubilation from health care providers and Virginia residents. VDH announced it would be enough to vaccinate nearly all of the state’s medical workers and long-term care residents by the end of the month.

The agency said it would continue to prioritize those two groups. But with limited supply, the state is focusing its initial allotment on hospital workers who care directly for COVID-19 patients. It’s still unclear when other providers, including primary care doctors and emergency medical service workers, will receive a vaccine.

Doses are currently shipped directly to 18 hospitals across the state. State health officials and VHHA have declined to name where specifically the vaccine is going.

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Kate Masters
Kate Masters

Kate grew up in Northern Virginia before moving to the Midwest, earning her degree in journalism from the University of Missouri. She spent a year covering gun violence and public health for The Trace in Boston before joining The Frederick News-Post in Frederick County, Md. Before joining the Mercury in 2020, she covered state and county politics for the Bethesda Beat in Montgomery County, Md. She was named Virginia's outstanding young journalist for 2021 by the Virginia Press Association.