With the emergency approval of a COVID-19 vaccine expected before the end of the year, county officials are one step closer to getting ready for mass vaccination planning.
At a meeting on Tuesday (Dec. 1), the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to accept a $500,000 state grant for the county’s mass vaccination program. Funds will be available through the state’s $22 million Coronavirus Relief Fund, which will be used to create a statewide program to distribute the vaccine, once it is available.
Two companies — Pfizer and Moderna — are awaiting emergency authorizations of their vaccines in the United States. The U.S. Food and Drug and Administration expected to authorize the approvals in mid-December.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s advisory committee on immunization practices voted earlier this week to make the first priority group health care workers and long-term care residents.
The county’s program also allocates roughly $14 million to help local health districts like the Fairfax Health District prepare for mass vaccination efforts. The grant must be used for facility rental costs, hiring for temporary positions, travel costs, printing, signage, and other expenses related to operating vaccination clinics.
Fairfax County Executive Brian Hill said his health department is actively working on a vaccination plan for the county “as we speak.” He noted that the county’s plan will depend heavily on the state’s strategy and other conditions, including who will receive the vaccine first.
“Once we know the particulars, we will have a plan in place per the Virginia Department of Health guidelines,” Hill said.
A county-based mass vaccination workgroup has been meeting since mid-June to discuss vaccination plans.
Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn urged the county to provide information on how the plan would be administered. He added that lines for the H1N1 vaccine program rivaled the lines the county recently saw for early voting.
“I just want to make sure we see what the plan is particularly as it relates to logistics,” he said.
Funds from the state grant must be spent by the end of the month, after which point unspent dollars will revert back to the state. However, county staff noted that the federal government could extend the date for the overall program. Acceptance of the grant requires no local match.
State officials are also considering other funding sources to support next year’s vaccination program. The Virginia Department of Health estimates that the program will cost $120 million.
Virginia is expected to get a little over 70,000 doses in the first shipment from Pfizer.
“When our turn comes, my family and I will have no hesitancy about getting vaccinated and I strongly encourage every Virginian to get the vaccine. That is our only path to getting back to that near normal,” Gov. Ralph Northam said in a press briefing yesterday (Wednesday).
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