By Carol Vaughn —
“I know you have one thing on your mind — and that’s vaccines,” said Gov. Ralph Northam in a briefing Wednesday.
Northam said Virginia is accelerating COVID-19 vaccinations and working to increase transparency, including Wednesday’s launch of a vaccine dashboard on the Virginia Department of Health website, https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/covid-19-vaccines-received/
Over 520,000 doses have been given in Virginia, mainly to health care workers and nursing home residents.
“In just one month, more people have been vaccinated than have tested positive in the entire year of the pandemic,” Northam said.
Federal messaging to states to start vaccinating people 65 and over, along with a promise of more doses, caused confusion when, two days later, “states learned that there were no more doses to release,” Northam said.
Northam spoke with the White House twice this week.
In a call with other governors, he heard “something that I have not heard since the pandemic began — and that is a commitment at the national level to work together, find solutions, and get this moving.”
In that call, states were told they will begin receiving 16% more doses immediately and the increase will be locked in, allowing them to plan for the coming month.
Gen. Gustave Perna, in charge of the federal vaccine effort, told governors manufacturers have “hit a stable, regular sustainable cadence of production” and the Biden administration is confident about allocating more doses, Northam said.
The goal is to get all Americans who want it vaccinated by summer’s end.
Virginia ranks 11th among the states for number of doses given but 26th for vaccination rate per 100,000 population.
Virginia met its initial goal of 25,000 shots per day and now averages more than 26,000.
Two pharmacies in a federal partnership to vaccinate long-term care facility residents and staff agreed to speed up their timeline at Northam’s request.
A Walgreens official said vaccinations at 94% of Virginia assisted living facilities in its charge will be completed by January’s end and the rest by early February.
Vaccination by Walgreens is complete at 92 long-term care facilities.
Walgreens has administered more than 18,500 vaccinations in facilities.
A CVS official said CVS completed first doses at 195 skilled nursing facilities and expects to finish second doses by Feb. 8.
CVS has administered 43,000 doses in those facilities.
CVS within three weeks has completed vaccinations all 611 assisted living facilities in its charge, except for 3% that asked for a week’s delay. CVS administered 20,000 doses in those facilities.
“The faster they get done, the faster more shots can get to the next groups,” Northam said.
Dr. Mike McDermott, president of Mary Washington Health Care, said Virginia hospitals increased vaccinations 35% in the past week and can give 100,000 shots a week if vaccine is available.
Virginia is distributing vaccine to communities based on population.
The VDH Wednesday issued guidelines to health districts to allot half of doses for age 65 and over and half for essential workers and people with high-risk medical conditions.
Districts also were directed to collect race and ethnicity data for those vaccinated; Northam supports legislation in the General Assembly to require that.
Northam directed the VDH to develop a centralized registration system and said call center staffing will increase.
Last week, Virginia had requests for 300,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses but received only 105,000 from the federal government, according to Dr. Danny Avula, vaccine coordinator for the Virginia Department of Health.
In the Eastern Shore Health District, 4,250 doses were requested last week, but only 1,000 were received and the district was told to expect only 500 doses per week in the near future.
The district has received 6,150 doses in all.
In Accomack County, 2409 doses were administered as of Wednesday, with 128 fully vaccinated.
In Northampton County, 1,231 doses were administered, with 75 fully vaccinated.
“We need to realize…we are looking at two to three months to look at this population that wants to be vaccinated,” in Phase 1b, Avula said.
Around 2,000 providers and 400 pharmacies in Virginia are approved to give vaccinations, and planning continues for more sites.
Riverside Official Gives Update
As of Jan. 23, Riverside Health System had distributed 93% of its allotted vaccine and expected to use 100% by the end of the week, with the rest scheduled to be administered to Riverside patients age 65 and older, according to a Riverside official.
“We think this is a really great accomplishment because there are a lot of health systems across the country and a lot of states across the country that have only given out 40% or 50% of the doses,” Dr. Mike Dacey, chief clinical operations officer, said in a video posted on Facebook.
Over 30% of doses went to people not employed by Riverside, including municipal workers and other providers’ employees.
Riverside in Phase1b is moving from hospital-based clinics to medical group-based clinics.
As result, “We’ve been able to expand our total capacity for giving vaccines to approximately 10,000 doses per week,” if vaccine were available, Dacey said, adding, “…The supply that we are currently receiving falls far short of that. I think that there’s a lot of hope that that number will go up and we will receive more vaccine, particularly given the great performance of the health system in terms of administering the vaccine that we’ve received so far.”
Riverside has more than 80,000 patients age 65 and up.
“We’ll do whatever we can beyond that, particularly with the essential workers,” Dacey said, noting the health system has good relationships with municipalities and local health departments.
“It is a dynamic situation and there is a lot of fluidity to it, particularly at the federal level,” he said.
Riverside launched a digital vaccine tracker on the health system’s homepage, riversideonline.com, which will be updated weekly and includes number of doses ordered; number received; number of first doses administered; and number of appointments scheduled.
Dacey will give weekly video updates Tuesdays on Riverside’s social media.