Virginia deals with smaller shipments and more vaccination requests than expected.
RICHMOND-The only thing stopping Virginia from speeding up COVID-19 vaccinations is a lack of supply. Over the last few days, Dogwood spoke with everyone from the Virginia Health Department to hospitals and local health districts. The answer was the same, as people said they simply didn’t have enough vaccine doses.
“Demand is greatly outpacing supply,” said Tammie Smith, a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Health. “It is safe to say that all Americans—hospitals, private providers, pharmacies, and local health departments—want more doses than are currently available.”
In fact, the situation’s reached a point where local health districts have scaled back events. In some cases, they’ve even set up waitlists to organize distribution.
“We are trying to schedule people based on our priority lists,” Amanda David said. She serves as Emergency Preparedness and Response Coordinator for the Prince William Health District.
“We are asking people to be patient. We’re doing the best we can with the information given to us day by day,” she added.
And when you ask why there’s a delay, the answer is simply that the previous federal administration overpromised and underdelivered.
Federal officials promised Virginia 481,000 doses by December 31. Then, as both Pfizer and Moderna increased production, health officials were told that number would climb. But federal officials only delivered 370,650 in December. Pfizer officials say they warned the federal government in a Nov. 9 press release. It says “we expect to produce globally up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.”
That’s 50 million for the entire world, not just America. Now, with both companies producing, Virginia gets 105,000 doses a week. The problem is that it would take 300,000 a week to meet all of the state’s needs.
Waiting for Vaccine Doses
Overall, Biden administration officials say things will improve. However, Virginia officials have been told not to expect an increase in shipment size until March. Before they can set up a new plan, Biden officials told the Associated Press, they have to figure out what exactly the previous administration’s version was. Biden officials said they don’t have a complete understanding of their predecessors’ actions on vaccine distribution. .
Meanwhile, here in Virginia, if there is any good news, it’s that hospitals and clinics used the delay to prepare. Across the Commonwealth, local officials say they’re ready to move forward. They just need more supply.
“We have the capacity to do at least 2,000 doses per day or 14,000 per week and we can do more if we were assured a greater supply,” said Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti. “The county manager and our public health director have informed me that currently, we are being promised only 1,400 doses this week.”
Arlington has the infrastructure, staff and preparation in place, Ferranti said. He added that if need be, staff from the city fire department will also help distribute.
“Supply of vaccine is the only limitation on our ability to put shots in arms,” de Ferranti said. “We are ready to expand our weekly throughput immediately to 10,000 doses per week.”
Dr. Danny Avula, head of Virginia’s vaccination effort, acknowledged the frustration in a Thursday press conference. He asked people to be patient.
“We’re gonna have to be patient as we work,” Avula said. “We’re going to work really hard, but given the supply demands we’re facing, it’s going to be a couple months. At the end of the day, everyone who wants to get vaccinated will get the opportunity.”
Brian Carlton is Dogwood’s managing editor. You can reach him at [email protected].