RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — On Monday, Virginia met President Joe Biden’s vaccination goal two weeks early, according to Gov. Ralph Northam.
At Hope Pharmacy in Richmond, Northam announced that 70 percent of adults across the Commonwealth have gotten at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. It makes Virginia the 16th state to reach the threshold before Biden’s July 4 deadline.
While the news marks a significant milestone, the state is still a long way from reaching herd immunity: a moving target that won’t be met until at least 70-75 percent of the total population is fully vaccinated, according to state health officials. Some experts expect that new, more contagious variants may require an even higher percentage to achieve community immunity.
Virginia Department of Health data as of Monday evening shows just under 50 percent of the total population is fully vaccinated.
“We still have deaths unfortunately every day but it doesn’t have to be that way,” Northam said. “We are thrilled to reach 70 percent but we want to get as close to 100 percent as possible.”
As it stands, Northam said new cases and hospitalizations are at their lowest rate since the pandemic started.
However, protection against future COVID-19 outbreaks varies widely by region.
This map on the VDH website shows the state’s highest vaccination rates are largely concentrated in Central and Northern Virginia. Meanwhile, in most localities South of Richmond, only about half of adults or less have gotten at least one shot.
Northam isn’t planning to offer cash incentives to increase vaccinations like some other states are doing.
“We just expect people to do the right thing,” Northam said.
Instead, the state is focused on bringing vaccines closer to home using community pharmacies and mobile clinics.
Hope Pharmacy Owner Dr. Shantelle Brown said they have given out thousands of COVID-19 vaccines so far but things slowed down about a month ago. She said patient relationships are helping reduce hesitancy.
“They’ve told me themselves ‘I’m getting it because I know that you have and I trust you,'” Brown said.
Another focus of the Northam Administration moving forward will be vaccinating more teens and young adults. VDH data shows nearly 34 percent of 10-19 year olds have gotten at least one shot and about 44 percent of 20-29 year olds.
Kids under the age of 12 aren’t yet eligible for the vaccine. Pfizer’s website says they hope to submit clinical trial data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for potential Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) sometime in the September-October time frame for children 5 to 11, and soon after for 6 months to 5.