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COVID vaccinations are beginning to pick up in Virginia

WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. logo WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. 2/26/2021 Brielle Ashford

The Virginia Department of Health announced good news on Friday during a news conference regarding the state’s vaccination efforts.

Virginia State Vaccine Coordinator Dr. Danny Avula said that 71,000 people were vaccinated within the past 24 hours - the largest entry the state has seen in that time period.

He also added that due to The Food and Drug Administration's approval of the Pfizer vaccine being stored at higher temperatures, the state can begin giving out that vaccine in more areas.

The FDA said Thursday that it’s allowing the additional option after reviewing new data from New York-based Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech.

Until now, the vaccine was required to be kept at ultra-cold temperatures — from minus 112 degrees to minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit  — so Pfizer ships the vials in a special thermal container packed with dry ice to maintain that temperature range. That requirement meant vaccination sites had to either obtain expensive ultracold freezers, keep adding dry ice to the shipping container to keep to the correct temperature range, or administer all the doses in each shipment quickly so none spoiled.

Now, the vaccine can be transported and stored for up to two weeks at the temperatures of freezers commonly found in pharmacies.

“What that means is that logistically, we're going to be able to use Pfizer in more locations than we have historically,” Dr. Avula said.

RELATED: Pfizer COVID vaccine no longer needs ultra-cold temperatures, FDA says

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Virginia is also planning to receive a larger shipment of both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines next week totaling 180,000 doses. The higher allocation is an improvement on the lower, weekly allocation earlier in the pandemic. “Four or five weeks ago we were down around 100,000 So a really nice progression there,” the doctor added.

The state also expects to receive additional vaccine doses once the FDA grants Emergency Use Authorization to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Virginia health officials plan to receive 69,000 doses at the beginning of next week if the shot is authorized.

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