Current COVID-19 Topics

VDH is waiting for guidance about booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines from the FDA and CDC.

 At this time, VDH is working with pharmacies, healthcare providers, and other partners to plan for providing booster doses to those individuals who are eligible and recommended to have a booster dose.  VDH will provide information about accessing a booster dose on vaccinate.virginia.gov when more guidance is available.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have not yet issued guidance on whether the general public should get COVID-19 vaccine booster doses.

  • All three COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and J&J) continue to be extremely effective in preventing serious illness that could result in hospitalization and/or death from COVID-19.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) discussed the topic of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine booster doses in an open session on Friday, September 17, 2021. FDA has not yet provided an official authorization for booster doses. 
    • The committee members expressed support for booster doses for certain high-risk populations, including older adults, those at high risk for severe illness, or those at high risk of exposure who received the Pfizer vaccine. The recommendation is for at least 6 months after their second dose.
    • The Moderna and J&J vaccines were not discussed at the meeting.
    • FDA will review the committee’s recommendation and determine whether to authorize a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine for those populations.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) is scheduled to meet next week to discuss the topic of booster doses on Wednesday and Thursday, September 22 and 23, 2021.
  • After the FDA approval and CDC recommendations, VDH will provide guidance to the public and clinicians regarding booster doses in Virginia. 
  • VDH will provide information about accessing a booster dose on vaccinate.virginia.gov when more guidance is available.  
  • COVID-19 vaccines are evaluated and recommended separately from each other, based on clinical data from the respective manufacturers. VDH expects there will be multiple announcements regarding each COVID-19 vaccine in the coming months.  
  • J&J vaccine was authorized by the FDA and recommended by CDC about 2.5 months after Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. As such, we expect any data indicating a need for booster doses to follow a similar timeline.
  • VDH does not recommend using any COVID-19 vaccine outside FDA Authorization and CDC ACIP recommendations. This includes obtaining a booster dose before it is authorized and recommended, or obtaining a dose of a different brand of vaccine than your original series. Visit CDC’s webpage for more information about booster shots.

Booster dose guidance will include a recommended range of time for fully-vaccinated people to get a booster dose (for example, 6-8 months).

While we do not expect the supply of vaccines to be limited, VDH and Virginia’s healthcare providers cannot guarantee that appointments will be immediately available for all individuals recommended for a booster dose on day one. It is not urgent that most individuals immediately make an appointment for a booster dose because the vaccines are highly effective in preventing severe disease. However, several real-world studies from around the globe indicate that effectiveness against infection begins to decrease after 6 months. This does not mean that after 6 months the vaccine stops being effective because vaccines are working very well to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death. It means that starting at around 6 months, health experts are starting to see a decrease in protection against mild and moderate disease. For more information, visit the CDC’s webpage about COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shot.

Many vaccines require booster doses or follow-up doses with a large window of opportunity for that dose.

For example the MMR vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella, which is first given between 12 and 15 months of age, recommends the second dose anywhere between 4 and 6 years of age. The DTaP vaccine that protects against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis also requires booster doses after the initial series. More information about how vaccines work can be found here.

Some treatments are available to treat COVID-19 illness

People with mild illness can do several things to relieve their symptoms.

They can stay home, rest, drink plenty of fluids, and take over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Be sure to follow the instructions on the package of the OTC medication, and do not give OTC cough or cold medicine to children under 6 years old. A table of types of OTC medications you can take for each symptom is available here. Continue to check your symptoms and call your healthcare provider if they get worse or you get concerned. Be sure to stay away from others (isolate) in the home to prevent the spread of disease.

 

Healthcare providers may recommend treatment with a monoclonal antibody (mAb). 

A mAb can treat mild illness in a person who is at high risk of progression to severe COVID-19. Do you have medical conditions or disabilities that put you at high risk for severe COVID-19?  Contact your healthcare provider as soon as symptoms start.

People with more serious illness should call their healthcare provider and follow their recommendations for treatment and self-care.

People who develop emergency warning signs need immediate medical attention and should call 911.

These include:

  • trouble breathing,
  • persistent pain or pressure in the chest,
  • new confusion or inability to arouse, or
  • bluish lips or face

People SHOULD NOT use animal products containing ivermectin.

These products can cause serious health effects, including death. There are approved uses for ivermectin in people and animals. But right now it has not been shown to be a safe or effective way to prevent or treat COVID-19.

  • Please help us protect public health by reporting any animal drug advertising/animal ivermectin products with claims about preventing or curing COVID-19 by emailing FDA-COVID-19-Fraudulent-Products@fda.hhs.gov or calling 1-888-InfoFDA (1-888-463-6332).
  • Seek immediate medical attention or call the poison control center hotline (1-800-222-1222) for advice if you have taken ivermectin or a product that contains ivermectin and are having symptoms. Signs and symptoms include gastrointestinal effects (nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea), headache, blurred vision, dizziness, fast heart rate, and low blood pressure. Other severe nervous system effects have been reported, including tremors, seizures, hallucinations, confusion, loss of coordination and balance, decreased alertness, and coma.
  • For more information, please see FDA FAQ: COVID-19 and Ivermectin Intended for Animals and FDA: Why You Should Not Use Ivermectin to Treat or Prevent COVID-19

FDA Grants Full Approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech (now known as ‘Comirnaty’) COVID-19 Vaccine

On August 23, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for people 16+ years.

This vaccine will be marketed as the Comirnaty vaccine.

  • New name, same vaccine: Comirnaty is the new name for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. It is the same vaccine as the one that was first authorized for use in December 2020. Over 200 million people in the U.S. have received the Pfizer vaccine.
  • Full approval of a COVID-19 vaccine means that the vaccine can be used even when there is not a public health emergency.

The Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will continue to cover people aged 12 to 15 years. It will also cover a third dose to certain immunocompromised people aged 12 years and older.

This is because FDA authorization for these groups came later (May 2021 and August 2021, respectively).  More time is needed to gather the safety and effectiveness data required for full approval.

Based on clinical trial results, Comirnaty is 91% effective at preventing COVID-19 disease.

The Advisory Council on Immunization Practices (ACIP)  plans to meet on August 30 to discuss updated recommendations (if needed) for Comirnaty. CDC will review the ACIP recommendations.

The main differences between an EUA and full approval are:

  • FDA’s EUA means the vaccine can only be used during a public health emergency. The vaccine must be used as directed by FDA and as recommended by CDC.
  • FDA approval means the vaccine can also be used in non-emergency settings.
  • Compared to EUA, FDA approval of vaccines requires even more data on safety, manufacturing, and effectiveness over longer periods of time and includes real-world data.

The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines will continue to be safely administered through an EUA as the FDA reviews data about their real-world use.

Mask Wearing Recommendations to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

The Delta variant, which is now the main variant circulating in Virginia, is significantly more contagious than the original COVID-19 virus. Until more people are vaccinated, wearing masks remains an important tool to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

If you are fully vaccinated:

  • VDH recommends you follow CDC guidance to mask in areas of substantial and high transmission. This means you are in a place where the spread of COVID-19 is happening more often. Check here to see if you are in one of those areas.
  • You do not have to wear masks or practice physical distancing in most outdoor settings.
  • There are some settings where there are still mask requirements, including some federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations and local business and workplace guidance.
  • You should wear a mask in healthcare settings, like a hospital or doctor’s office.
  • You should wear a mask if you live, work, or visit a correctional facility or homeless shelter.
  • You must wear a mask in indoor child care settings and at K-12 schools. See below for more guidance on school settings.
  • You should wear a mask if you take medication or have a condition that weakens the immune system, unless your healthcare provider advises otherwise.
  • You must wear masks when using public transportation (airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses (including school buses), taxis, and rideshares, as well as in indoor transportation hubs, such as airports and stations), per a federal order.
  • If you attend or visit PreK-12 schools or work at a business, see the information below.

Fully vaccinated means that it has been at least two weeks after your final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. This means two weeks after your one dose of Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine or after your second dose of Comirnaty (Pfizer-BioNTech) or Moderna vaccine. You are also considered to be fully vaccinated if you have completed a COVID-19 vaccination series with a vaccine that has been authorized for emergency use by the World Health Organization (such as AstraZeneca/Oxford).

If you are not fully vaccinated:

  • You should wear a mask and practice physical distancing in all indoor public settings and in crowded outdoor settings based on CDC recommendations.
  • This recommendation is for people aged 2 years and older. Masks should not be worn by children under the age of 2.
      ***Adults should use their best judgment in putting masks on children aged 2-4 while inside public areas. They should also use their best judgment for these children when they are outdoors in crowded settings or within 6 feet of others who are not fully vaccinated. Find a mask made for children, if possible.
  • You should wear a mask in healthcare settings, like a hospital or doctor’s office.
  • You should wear a mask if you live, work, or visit a correctional facility or homeless shelter.
  • You must wear a mask when using public transportation (airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses (including school buses), taxis, and rideshares, as well as in indoor transportation hubs, such as airports and stations), per a federal order.
  • If you attend or visit PreK-12 schools or work at a business, see the information below.

Learn more about masks to help prevent spread of COVID-19 here.

Masks in Virginia PreK-12 Schools

On August 12, Governor Northam announced a Public Health Emergency Order requiring universal masking in all indoor settings in Virginia’s public and private K-12 schools.

This order supports current state law, which requires Virginia schools to follow mitigation strategies laid out by the CDC.

As of July 28, CDC guidelines include universal masking for all students, teachers, and staff. SB 1303 was passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of the General Assembly earlier this year.

  • This Order shall be effective August 12, 2021, and shall remain in full force and effect until the CDC guidelines for K-12 schools change, unless this Order is sooner amended or rescinded.
  • In Virginia’s 2021 legislative session, Senate Bill 1303 passed requires schools to provide in-school instruction in accordance, to the maximum extent practicable, with the mitigation strategies provided by the CDC. These mitigation strategies include mask wearing indoors for all students, staff, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status.

Masks must be worn on school buses, per a federal order.

Current COVID-19 Regulations for Businesses

General Recommendations for Businesses

General recommendations for businesses are now available.

Final Permanent Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus that Causes COVID-19

Find the Virginia Standard for Infectious Disease Prevention of the SARS-CoV-2 Virus that Causes COVID-19 on the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI) website at doli.virginia.gov.  FAQs for the Standard can be found here.

Businesses must file COVID-19 reports through VDH’s online reporting portal.

These reports will ensure VDH and DOLI reporting compliance.The online reporting portal allows employers to enter up to 10 COVID-19 cases.

If you feel unsafe in your workplace

If you feel unsafe in your workplace, you can file a formal complaint with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration here and with the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry here.

Resources to Protect Virginians’ Mental and Physical Well-Being

Virginia C.O.P.E.S

COVID-19 has changed things about our lives and our daily activities. Sometimes this can cause stress for ourselves and our families. If you are having a hard time coping with changes in your life due to COVID-19, a free, anonymous “warm” line is available. Callers can receive emotional support and referrals for mental health and other services. The Virginia COPES number is:

1-877-349-6428 Toll Free (call or text)
9:00 A.M. - 9:00 P.M. Monday - Friday
5:00 P.M. - 9:00 P.M. Saturday and Sunday
Spanish speaking counselors are available. 

Below are free and confidential resources available 24 hours a day to call for help and support.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, home may not be a safe place for people experiencing family or sexual violence or abuse.

For immediate emergencies, call 9-1-1.

Family Violence and Sexual Assault Virginia Hotline: 1-800-838-8238

LGBTQ Partner Abuse and Sexual Assault Helpline: 1-866-356-6998

Instant messaging and text options are available if it isn’t safe to talk on the phone. The Family Violence and Sexual Assault Virginia Hotline and the LGBTQ Partner Abuse and Sexual Assault Helpline have a confidential chat feature here, or you can text the hotlines at: 804-793-9999.

Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline: 1-800-552-7096