Opinion: Commentary: Vaccine Roll Out Improving

Opinion: Commentary: Vaccine Roll Out Improving

Disappointingly, Virginia hit the bottom of the national rankings in Covid-19 vaccine distribution in recent weeks, uniting both political parties here in the Commonwealth in constructive and bipartisan criticism of the Northam administration over transparency of location of doses, methods of distribution and equality in where the vaccines were going. Importantly, the Northam administration responded quickly and made some necessary improvements to the vaccine distribution system. As a result, Virginia soared up the state rankings and now sits at #15 in the nation in percentage of doses administered, which is very good news. And, significantly, the administration has locked in a permanent 16 percent increase to the amount of doses we receive from the federal government, bringing us closer to the 50,000 doses a day needed to achieve herd immunity. The largest obstacle Virginia, and the nation as a whole, faces is still supply; even if we had the infrastructure to administer vaccines to every Virginian tomorrow, there are simply not enough vaccine doses to do so yet.

What the administration discovered was that many hospitals were holding onto thousands of doses to administer second shots to their employees, and that some health departments were uncertain about who should receive the vaccine. The storage of extra doses was deemed unnecessary, as the hospital systems will receive more doses of the vaccine 3-4 weeks after their initial vaccinations. The governor has ordered these hospitals to redistribute the vaccines immediately so that more Virginians can receive their initial dose. The administration has clarified that the health departments should allocate half of their available doses for those 65 and older, and the other half should be allocated for frontline essential workers, high risk individuals 16 and over, and those who live in congregate settings.

Too many of my constituents and Virginians across the Commonwealth have found it difficult to get a vaccine appointment with their local health departments even if they were eligible in groups 1a and 1b. Others had concerns about the difference between the number of doses received from the federal government and the number of shots administered. Governor Northam has directed the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) to accelerate the development of a centralized vaccination appointment system, and the VDH created a vaccine dashboard to increase transparency in the vaccination campaign. The dashboard can be found at https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/covid-19-vaccines-received/.

There are concerns about unequal distribution; that privileged, wealthy, white communities were receiving more vaccines than lower income or minority communities. The administration is now requiring that the healthcare volunteers who administer the vaccine record the race and ethnicity of the recipient so that this critical data can be tracked.

On the General Assembly side, we are rushing to pass legislation to aid the vaccination efforts. Del. Bagby’s emergency House Bill 2333 passed all House committees, the House Floor, the Senate Committees and Senate floor unanimously. House Bill 2333 will dramatically expand eligibility to administer the vaccine to medical and nursing students, and those who had a license to practice medicine in Virginia in the last 20 years, opening the door to even more experienced personnel to aid in vaccination efforts. This bill eliminates some licensing barriers and helps lay the personnel infrastructure groundwork for the day soon when Virginia will receive enough doses of the vaccine to administer the necessary 50,000 a day. This bill also will require ethnicity and race to be recorded to ensure that the vaccines are being distributed in an equitable manner. Also, HB 2333 will create an online infrastructure to make volunteering to give the vaccine easy and accessible.

The recent inclement weather we have experienced has also caused some delays with first and second dose vaccinations across Fairfax County. Inova was originally scheduled to vaccinate FCPS teachers and staff on Sunday and Monday. Please visit https://fairfaxcountyemergency.wpcomstaging.com/2021/01/30/winter-weather-advisory-impacts-health-department-operations-sunday-jan-31/ to reschedule an appointment if you are unable to travel for your appointment due to the weather or to make a new appointment if you are a Fairfax County resident eligible under the 1a and 1b vaccination categories.

For more Fairfax County information, please visit here: https://fairfaxcountyemergency.wpcomstaging.com/2021/02/02/health-department-provides-covid-19-vaccination-update-to-board-of-supervisors/?utm_source=text&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=covid&utm_content=020221.