The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on Feb. 27, making it the third vaccine to receive such authorization.
On Tuesday, President Joe Biden announced a deal between Johnson & Johnson and Merck — two of the largest healthcare and pharmaceutical companies in the world — to manufacture the J&J vaccine.
“We’re now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May,” the president said.
Locally, Cindy Williams, vice president and chief pharmacy officer at Riverside Health System, which has been monitoring vaccine information for months, said currently there is limited information on the J&J vaccine.
“We don’t have all of the answers yet because we are not the keepers of how the vaccines are allocated,” Williams said on Thursday, adding it is done at the state level referring to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH).
She said the health system is currently educating its staff, preparing to answer frequently asked questions from patients about the vaccine, particularly since the J&J vaccine differs from the previously approved COVID-19 vaccines.
In an update on Wednesday, VDH said out of the initial 2.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine being distributed nationwide, Virginia’s share is 69,000. Another almost 22,000 doses will go to retail pharmacies too and VDH anticipates supplies ramping up significantly by the end of March.
“I really just think the month of March, we’re going to see so much opportunity to get vaccinated that the focus shifts from how are we allocating vaccine to how do we make sure that we’re getting it out to all the channels possible and that people know how to get access to that vaccine,” said State Vaccine Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula.
In addition to taking guidance from the VDH, Riverside is also relying on information released by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Riverside is expected to receive 1,000 doses of the vaccine and Williams said the Peninsula Health District asked the health system to help administer the doses to those in Phase 1a — such as healthcare workers and first responders — while long-term distribution plans are fluid depending on vaccine supply and targeting.
The PHD is currently in Phase 1b.
Aware some may prefer the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine for a variety of reasons, VDH noted those who are selected will not give up their place in line by rejecting a J&J opportunity.
“At this point, what we’re doing is being very clear about the events that people are signing up for and saying, this is a Johnson & Johnson event,” Avula said. “Here’s what you need to know about Johnson & Johnson. If you choose not to accept this vaccine … you’ll keep your spot in line and be offered the next Moderna and Pfizer vaccine.”
VDH confirms death of child under 10
In a sober reminder that the pandemic is still dangerous, VDH Confirmed on Thursday a child in the Central Virginia Region died from complications of a chronic health condition and COVID-19. This is the first reported death in a child under 10 years old with COVID-19 in Virginia.
Spring activities cope with pandemic
With spring in the air, residents thinking about social activities may be interested in how some area organizations have coped.
The Rose & Sword Academy of Irish Dance in Williamsburg and Yorktown temporarily suspended classes at their Yorktown studio due to low class enrollment and moved all classes to the Williamsburg studio location. The academy changed its class format offering their dancers lessons through Zoom, outdoor sessions and socially distanced in-person classes.
CLUBWAKA, a social club providing adult sports leagues, social activities and events, has staged both kickball and bowling leagues that have been able to meet weekly through the pandemic. In fact, participation numbers have gone up as more people looked for safe ways to get out and socialize. All leagues have proceeded with extreme regard to COVID-19 safety.
And the William & Mary Athletics Department announced plans on Feb. 26 to expand attendance for students at athletics events within selected venues in response to Gov. Ralph Northam’s easing of COVID-19 restrictions. Students are expected to gather safely within all applicable social distance protocols. While the revised rules will not allow the public to attend events, it will allow the department to increase the previously limited pass list for student-athletes’ families to attend.
Here are some recent COVID-19 headlines you may have missed:
COVID-19 vaccine updates
- VDH corrects data reporting error for City of Williamsburg vaccines, now at more than 3,000 doses
- York County suspends local COVID-19 helpline effective Tuesday
- ‘Vaccinate Virginia’ website is now live. Here’s what that means
- Confused about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout?
- Don’t post your COVID-19 vaccine card on social media
- What’s the deal with the COVID-19 vaccination process? A few locals share their experience
- Free hotline established for questions regarding Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center vaccination clinic
- Skip a trip to the DMV with these new online services
- Gov. eases COVID-19 restrictions as daily case numbers decrease, vaccine doses rise
- Williamsburg Regional Library reopens
- Williamsburg city manager extends staff telework directive for two more weeks
- Local school divisions move forward in bringing students back to the classroom
- Two private schools, two different approaches
- Gov. Northam announces support to reopen schools
- WJCC Schools, York County School Division on track for fall sports season
- Williamsburg extends deadline for Municipal Utility Relief Program throughout 2021
- Williamsburg Health Foundation announced $1 million in grants to help prevent renter evictions
- Utility relief is available
- Help is available for area businesses
- Five things to know about taxes in a pandemic
The latest numbers for the Peninsula Health District, which includes the Historic Triangle, are below, courtesy of the Virginia Department of Health’s COVID-19 Dashboard: