Anya Sczerzenie, Contributing Writer
An average of 50,000 vaccine doses are being administered in Virginia each day as the commonwealth begins using the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
Gov. Ralph Northam stated in a Facebook post that Virginia would be able to meet President Joe Biden’s vaccination goal of making all U.S. adults eligible for the vaccine by May 1.
“Opening up vaccine eligibility to all adults by May 1 is an ambitious target, and one that we can achieve in Virginia,” Northam stated.
Northam stated the goal to “celebrate independence” from the virus by July 4 is within reach if Virginians get vaccinated and follow public health guidelines. That date is also a goal for Biden, who predicts that with widespread cooperation, Americans will be able to gather in small groups to celebrate Independence Day.
More than 21% of Virginia’s population has received at least one vaccine dose as of Tuesday, up from 13.3% on Feb. 23, according to Virginia Department of Health data. More than 21,000 people in the city of Richmond are fully vaccinated.
“We are aiming to vaccinate about 75% of our population to reach herd immunity,” Catherine Long, a spokesperson for Richmond and Henrico health districts, stated in an email.
After the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration on Feb. 27, Virginia began using the single-dose vaccine along with the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. The commonwealth began distributing its first shipment of 69,000 Johnson & Johnson vaccines on March 4, according to VDH.
The number of vaccines being administered each week in Virginia was steadily climbing since December but has plateaued in the last two weeks, according to VDH.
In contrast, COVID-19 cases have fallen steadily since their peak in early January, according to VDH. Virginia was averaging more than 5,000 cases per day at the start of the new year; the average number is now about 1,200.
Fully vaccinated people are safe to gather with other fully vaccinated people indoors without masks, according to the CDC. Vaccinated people can also visit one unvaccinated household without masks, as long as no one in that household is at risk of serious illness from COVID-19. Vaccinated people can refrain from testing and quarantine following a known exposure to COVID-19, as long as they are asymptomatic.
However, vaccinated people should still wear masks in public, according to the CDC. They should also continue to avoid large gatherings such as weddings, sporting events, concerts, conferences and festivals; in which attendees cannot stay six feet apart.
Virginians who want to register for a vaccine must use the commonwealth’s centralized registration system, which can be found at vaccinate.virginia.gov.