COVID-19 cases top 4,000 in Virginia for second time this week

The hike comes on the day of FDA approval of a vaccine to battle the deadly virus.

For the second time this week, new COVID-19 cases topped 4,000 in Virginia, with 4,177 infections. The Roanoke Valley (Roanoke city, county and Salem) saw 161 new cases while Montgomery saw 54 and Floyd County reports five.

The rise comes as shipments begin of the Coronavirus vaccine approved Friday night by the Food & Drug Administration. First inoculations go to health care workers and nursing home residents with about 20 million vials of first shots of the vaccine (a second one is required later on) expected to be available nationwide with another 100 million set to arrive in 2021.

Currently unaffected, overweight seniors with underlying conditions are expected to be high on the priority lists but it will take months for all who want shots to get them.

Saturday morning statistics show 16.3 million people infected with the disease over the last 10 months. More than 300,000 have died. Nationwide, more than 3,300 people have died from the disease in two days this week with 2,950 on Friday.

The vaccine, developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, came in just 11 months since the disease hit, an incredible record of speed for a process that normally takes years.

“To get there has required a host of innovations. … Any one of those would have been cause for considerable amazement,” said Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health told The Washington Post. “But when you put them together, it’s a path so revolutionary it would be hard to imagine somebody contemplating it five years ago.”

But the new vaccine will still take time to produce in enough quantities needed. The initial supply is far short of the 300 million vials needed to handle the needs of Americans.

“The entire world is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but for most of the world, they are still in a very, very long tunnel, and that’s the problem,” says Richard Hatchett, chief executive of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, a nonprofit group that funds vaccine development. “The reason we’ve developed the vaccine is to end the pandemic, and you don’t end the pandemic until you … protect the most vulnerable people, who are globally distributed.”

Those who get the first shot will need the second one 21 days later. In Britain, where the shots began earlier in the week, some severe allergic reactions have occurred. The drug must be kept at sub-freezing temperatures until being administered.

At least two other vaccines, including to Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are nearing approval, which could come as early as January. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine only requires one shot.

The 300 million vials, with two shoots for each person secured for the United States covers 150 million people, far short of what is needed for all the population.