COVID roundup: Northern Va. could reach herd immunity by June/July
Other regions may not achieve herd immunity this year, U.Va. report says
According to the University of Virginia Biocomplexity Institute, estimated rates of “vaccine acceptance” — residents’ willingness to be vaccinated — differ regionally and could delay herd immunity in some parts of the state. The U.Va. report, released April 30, shows that an estimated 88% of Northern Virginia adults are willing to be vaccinated, but Eastern Virginia has an approximate acceptance rate of only 43%, the lowest in the state.
“In this model, Northern Virginia could reach community immunity in June or July,” the report says. “Other regions may not reach it this year.” Central Virginia is just below 70%, followed by Northwest, far Southwest and near Southwest regions, which range between 45% and 56%.
Virginia is now seeing less demand for COVID-19 vaccines than in previous weeks as shots have become more accessible. State vaccine coordinator Dr. Danny Avula said Friday that 57% of all eligible Virginia residents age 16 and older have received at least one dose.
At this point, there are more opportunities for walk-up vaccination without an appointment, and more primary care providers will start receiving shipments of Pfizer Inc. vaccines so Virginians can get vaccinated at their doctors’ offices, Avula added in a Friday press call. There will now be more focus on convincing younger people — ages 16 to mid-30s — to get vaccinated, because the state is still aiming for 75% vaccination, the approximate benchmark for herd immunity, Avula said. “Convenience is such an important piece now.”
As for younger Virginians, it’s likely that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will approve Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for children ages 12 and older sometime in May, and Virginia expects to engage school systems to start in-school vaccination clinics in the final weeks of the academic year, Avula said.
Meanwhile, Gov. Ralph Northam announced last week a partial rollback of the state’s mask mandate, although he didn’t go as far as other governors who have completely called off face-covering restrictions, including Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Following CDC recommendations, vaccinated Virginians are now able to gather in small groups outdoors without wearing masks, but they still need to wear them indoors and at large, crowded events outside, such as sporting events and graduations. Up to 1,000 people also are now allowed to attend outdoor recreational sporting events, a change that will let more people see high school conference games in person this spring.
Vaccination in Va.
As of Monday, 45.1% of all Virginians have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, and 32% are fully vaccinated, according to the Virginia Department of Health. And after a nearly two-week nationwide pause, state health care providers are now administering Johnson & Johnson vaccines again. Avula said Friday that he did not know yet if Virginians are shunning the one-dose vaccine, which was paused for investigation when six women had blood clots after receiving the vaccine, including a Virginia woman who died.
Statewide, 3,849,303 people have received at least one dose, while 2,727,811 people are fully vaccinated as of Monday, and the state is administering 69,526 doses per day. Avula said he believes the state’s vaccine demand has now peaked, and VDH’s focus will now shift toward making shots easier to get without advance appointments. People who missed their second shot appointments also may hear from the state’s VDH call center, he added.
All adult residents of Virginia can now find vaccination locations at vaccinate.virginia.gov or by calling (877) VAX-IN-VA, or (877) 829-4682.
Over the past week, the state recorded 6,996 new COVID-19 cases, a decrease from the previous week, which saw 7,818 cases, and 101 people died last week of virus-related causes, VDH reported. The previous week, there were 111 COVID fatalities. As of Monday, the state has reported 661,925 total cases and 10,807 deaths, and the current seven-day positivity rate is 4.6%, down 0.8% from last week.
The state now ranks 16th in the nation for percentage of vaccine doses administered, according to CDC data analyzed by Becker’s Hospital Review.
According to U.Va.’s COVID-19 model, the state expects new virus variants to drive a summer peak of 45,413 cases in the week ending July 25.
As of April 28, the Alleghany and Rappahannock health districts are seeing a surge in cases, defined as “sustained rapid growth and exceeds recent inflection points.” Districts experiencing slow growth include Central Shenandoah and Piedmont. As of April 29, Portsmouth has a seven-day positivity rate of 11%, up from 8.6% on April 22. The rest of the state’s health districts now have rates below 10%.
With race and ethnicity information available for only 58.4% of people who have received shots in the state, the majority of shots have been received by white, non-Hispanic people — 62.4% as of Monday, according to VDH. Black Virginians have received 14.1% of shots, although they make up 19.9% of the state’s population, according to 2019 estimates by the U.S. Census; 11.4% of vaccines were given to Latino residents, who comprise about 9.8% of Virginians.
State health officials have focused attention on equitable administration of vaccinations, especially as Latino and Black residents are heavily represented among people who have been infected, hospitalized and died from the coronavirus. Among Virginia’s COVID deaths for which ethnicity and race were recorded, 24.9% were Black, and 6.4% were Latino.
National and global news
Globally, there are 152.9 million reported COVID-19 cases and 3,205,000 confirmed deaths, as of May 3. The United States, which has the most confirmed cases and deaths worldwide, has seen 32.4 million confirmed cases so far, with 577,055 deaths attributed to the coronavirus since February 2020. According to the CDC, 147 million U.S. residents have received at least one vaccine dose, or 44.3% of the nation’s population, and 104.7 million people, or 31.6% of the U.S. population, are fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, India continues to experience surges in new cases, with more than 300,000 cases per day over the past six days and an overall death toll of 198,000, although that number may be low, The New York Times reports. The U.S. government has pledged to send up to 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to other nations, as well as raw material for coronavirus vaccines. The U.S. and other countries have restricted travel from India to prevent spread.