Arlington could have the COVID-19 vaccine as early as the end of this month, but the first shipment of doses won’t be available to the general public.
Nearly a half million healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents across Virginia at risk of being infected will get the first doses from the Virginia Department of Health, and it is not yet known when the rest of the public will get the vaccine.
Arlington’s Public Health Director Dr. Reuben Varghese told the County Board on Tuesday that there is still a lot of unknown information regarding the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines that are undergoing Food and Drug Administration approval. He said that the number of vaccine doses that will arrive in Virginia (estimated at 480,000) is a moving target, that both vaccines require recipients to get booster shots within a month, and the effect on children and pregnant women is still unknown.
“The plan is that those health care personnel that directly care for COVID-19 patients, or are in support of that will receive top priority first,” Varghese said. “VDH is working with the Virginia Hospital and Health Care Association to prepare the health systems that have the ultra cold chain storage ability to receive these first shipments, because it has to be done safely and you don’t want to go through the expense of creating all of this, and then not maintain the vaccine at the appropriate temperature.”
On Saturday, the County Board will consider accepting $660,000 in state grants to prepare for mass vaccine distribution. The funds would pay for the hiring of temporary medical and non-medical staff, and cover travel costs, facility rentals and clinic operations, according to Arlington Public Health.
The vaccine will eventually be available at grocery stores, as well as chain and independent pharmacies, according to the VDH COVID-19 Vaccination Plan.
Mass vaccine distribution will not necessarily mean that COVID restrictions will be quickly lifted in Arlington, however.
“The fact that we are going to enter a period where vaccination will be available doesn’t mean in any way that all the other precautions for COVID hygiene are going to be relaxed,” County Board member Takis Karantonis said.
There have been 7,062 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arlington since the pandemic began in March, along with 162 deaths and more than 600 total hospitalizations.
Below is Tuesday’s County Board work session discussing vaccination plans.