Williamsburg Covid-19 Vaccine

A closer look at the history and development of the Covid-19 vaccine and the process of vaccine rollout in Williamsburg.

The City of Williamsburg and James City County have begun giving out the Covid-19 vaccine to select groups of people. Williamsburg has one of three mass-vaccination sites on the peninsula at the Colonial Williamsburg Visitors Center, the other two being The Hampton Roads Convention Center (Hampton and Poquoson) and Christopher Newport University (Newport News and York County). These locations are not yet open to the general public but will be once there are enough vaccines. An announcement will be made when the vaccination sites are open to the public.  A phone line for questions regarding the vaccination for Williamsburg and James City County has been set up for callers to get the most up-to-date info on vaccination and the new clinic. The number is 877-724-1954.  

Virginia is currently in Phase 1B, so the Visitors Center is focusing on vaccinating frontline essential workers, residents ages 65+, residents ages 16-64 who have underlying health conditions, and people living in correctional facilities, homeless shelters and migrant labor camps. When Virginia is moved on to phase 1C, they will focus on other essential workers.  

Dr. Scott Burgess receiving the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine on December 19, 2020.

Williamsburg-James City County schools has started giving the first dose of the Moderna Vaccine at the Colonial Williamsburg Visitors Center vaccination site. They have been contacting staff directly for information to schedule and register for the shot. WJCC Schools anticipate that teacher and staff vaccinations, consistent mask use, social distancing and plenty of cleaning will help the transition from online to in-person school, making the change smoother and safer. Emily Sullivan, a senior at Lafayette High Schoolsays that it is especially important for teachers and staff to get vaccinated for our return to school, since they are older and they are risking themselves to teach.  

One of the most important parts of the Covid-19 vaccine is the actual current distribution of them to the public to ensure safety throughout Williamsburg. The first person from James City County received this vaccine on December 17th from the Riverside Doctors’ Hospital. This was a step in the right direction for all citizens. Although, not everyone has received the vaccine quite yet. People will be eligible for the vaccine depending on what category they fit into. There are three groups in the distribution process. The first phase includes all health care workers and seniors that are high risk. The second phase includes getting all the teachers, critical workers in high risk settings, and older adults not included in phase one vaccinated. The last people to receive the shot are the lower risk individuals and will target children and young adults. 

 The two vaccines, Moderna and Pfizer both require two doses of the shot to remain effective. The Pfizer shots are given three weeks apart while the Moderna vaccines are given four weeks apart. The vaccine starts to become effective approximately 3 weeks after the last shot is given so therefore you cannot be too careful until the time has passed. The hospitals are trying to get these out as soon they are given the green light to move forward in the phases. According to Scott Burgess, M.D. director of robotic surgery at riverside regional medical center, the hospital recruited all different types of doctors, nurses, and office workers to work at the vaccination clinics. The injections are given by nurses, but there are doctors present just incase there are any issues. 

Covid-19 vaccines are kept in a freezer at doctors offices and vaccination centers across Williamsburg.

Dr. Burgess explained, “I was very excited to receive the vaccine.  There has been some reluctance by certain members of my team to receive the vaccine.  Approximately 60-70% of the healthcare professionals who work at Riverside received the vaccine.  Most of the reluctance to get the shot was centered on the speed at which it was developed.” This quote revealed that most of the healthcare professionals who did not get the vaccine were skeptical about it was discovered faster than expected. Burgess believes that he would rather risk any minor unknown side effects of the vaccine than infect others by not receiving it. He absolutely recommends everyone especially his patients to become vaccinated once they are eligible.

Though vaccines began to reach the James City County area in early 2021, the approval process of the vaccine has been extensive throughout this past year of 2020. While the rest of the country was in lockdown, scientists were working on developing vaccines to combat the Covid-19 Virus. Once the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines (the vaccines Currently available in the U.S) were created and multiple trials were conducted, there had to be a governmental process which confirmed their safety and enabled them to be used by the American public. That process began with the U.S Government and the Food and Drug Administration.  

Colonial Williamsburg’s Visitors Center has temporarily transformed into a vaccination center for teachers, government officials, people aged 65+, and other essential workers.

Though there is a process that the government goes through to approve vaccines in the country. The Covid-19 vaccine is dealt with using a procedure for this specific situation. This procedure is called “Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)”.  Beginning on March 27th 2020, the U.S Secretary of Health and Human Survives declared, “circumstances exist justifying the authorization of emergency use of drug and biological products during the Covid-19 pandemic”. This means that the U.S could authorize the use of these vaccines for emergency use. After the Pfizer and Moderna companies ran their trails, they submitted requests to the FDA for EUA of their Covid-19 vaccines. Pfizer submitted their request on November 2oth 2020, and Moderna submitted their request on November 30th 2020.  Then, the scientists and doctors of the FDA observed the effectiveness of the two leading vaccines while they were in trial. They studied the potential risks and benefits of the two arising vaccines. Because the Vaccines met the effectiveness standard and the benefit-risk assessment of the vaccines was favorable, the product will be able to be available for the EAU.  The FDA issued a EUA for the Moderna Vaccine on December 18th 2020.  Separately, the FDA issued a EUA for emergency use of the Pfizer Vaccine on December 11th 2020.

The visitors center is organized to make getting a vaccine as easy and swift as it can be for patients, with signs, cones and arrows all around.

The developing of the Covid’19 vaccine has been the fastest developed vaccine since the mumps vaccine that took four years. The Covid’19 immunization process started back in March of 2020. When the United States Department of Health and Human Services announced, “Operation Warp Speed (OWS) This was announced so the process of developing the Covid’19 vaccine would be expeditedOne of the biggest factors of the “OWS” is how it is changing the process of how pharmaceuticals and biotechnologies create and fund vaccinesThe HHS built a necessary infrastructure, which guarantees the manufacturing of successful vaccines by the running candidatesThe two companies that currently have an approved vaccine being distributed out to the public, did not participate in OWS but a similar German Government program 

This use to be the entrance to the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor Center, where guest could buy tickets, shop, and check out different programs. Due to Covid’19 it was shut down in March and hasn’t reopened since. Since then, it is being used as a vaccine distributing center as you can see with the new entrance sign.

By the mid-summer of 2020 Moderna and Pfizer had declared their selves as leaders in the race of the Covid’19 vaccine. Moderna published their initial Phase I/II clinical trials on July 14th, then Pfizer published their clinical on August 12th. However, the sample sizes were small, but they were demonstrating promising safety measures and antibody production.  With the promising results both clinical trials started Phase III around late SeptemberIn early November, Moderna and Pfizer both started to release results that were exceeding everyone’s predictions. In the phase III of Pfizer’s trial there was an efficiency rate of approximately 95%. With Moderna’s phase III trials also have an efficiency rate of approximately 95%.  

After going through all the clinical trials both companies presented their findings to the FDA for approval. The Pfizer vaccine was approved on December 11th, 2020. The Moderna vaccine was approved by the FDA on December 18th , 2020. Since, the FDA approved both vaccines, they were getting ready for roll out. After the mass production began so did the process of how to distribute the vaccine to the American people. On December 14th , 2020 the first dosages on the Pfizer vaccine were distributed. Sarah Lindsey, an ICU nurse in New York was the first person to receive Pfizer’s Covid’19 vaccine. The first dosages of the Moderna vaccine were distributed a week later on December 22nd , 2020. On Monday, December 14th , 2020, Sentra (Norfolk based organization) received their first batches of the Pfizer Covid’19 vaccine, with the Moderna batch arriving the following week. Virginia first started to distribute the vaccine on December 17th , 2020. Currently, there is another vaccine following the same timeline as Pfizer and Moderna. This vaccine comes from Johnson & Johnson, who are currently asking for emergency approval from the FDA. This vaccine is only 85% effective against Covid’19, but it is only one dosage and not multiple follow-up shots like the two current vaccines.