RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Around 65% of Virginians already have their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, just a few hundred thousand people away from President Joe Biden’s summer goal.
The federal government hopes to see at least 70% of people vaccinated with their first vaccine dose by the Fourth of July. State Vaccine Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula says that 343,000 Virginians will need to get their dose between now and then to reach that goal.
The good news is that to reach that number, the Commonwealth would need to get around 8,000 shots into arms each day and right now about 20,000 people receive their first dose each day.
With authorization for the Pfizer vaccine expanded to the 12 to 15 year old age group, Virginia has been seeing steady vaccination rates.
Avula says they are continuing to offer first doses of both Pfizer and Moderna as they are seeing a decreased demand for the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The Virginia Department of Health is shifting their approach away from massive vaccination centers and offering smaller more mobile events as well as shots through primary care physicians. Avula says that many smaller practices only need around 30 or 40 vaccines and that requires either the local health department or a pharmacy to break up a shipment and distribute a smaller amount to them.
According to Avula, there are no plans in place for large vaccination incentives in Virginia. The vaccine coordinator explains that the vaccine itself already carries large individual and practical incentives such as the health benefits and no longer needing to wear a mask once fully vaccinated.
He does see a possibility for smaller targeted incentives in areas were vaccination rates could be lacking. Possible incentives include things like state park passes or hunting and fishing licenses.
Avula explains he doesn’t want to overly rely on incentives for something that is “inherently good.”
One group in particular that the department of health wants to reach more members of is young people. Right now, Avula says only about 40% of the younger demographics are vaccinated while around 80% of the 65 and over age range has gotten their vaccine.
In order to reach more younger Virginians, Avula says the department of health wants to bring more clinics to where people already are whether that be work, a sporting event or restaurant. They are also considering more social media strategies.