At his press conference in Richmond Tuesday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam acknowledged the slow rate of vaccinations against the Covid-19 virus going on in his state. But his only solution was to spur health care providers to speed up their work. “If there are vials in freezers, give out shots until they are gone,” he said.
Falls Church recipients of the vaccinations so far report the sluggish nature of the distribution, which for most qualifying persons in this area are being made available at the Fairfax County Executive Building in Fairfax.
Meanwhile, new cases are surging to levels four times greater than in the perceived “peak” last spring.
Dr. Gordon Theisz of the Family Doctors of Falls Church had his whole staff of a half dozen, in addition to himself, receive the first of two doses of the Moderna vaccine last week, one of two options available now (Pfizer being the other). His report was that the delivery was uneven, but definitely not with the urgency that one might expect.
He said given the amount of testing for the Covid-19 virus he and his staff have been providing, it is clear why providers in his position should be in the first wave of those receiving shots. It also helps him to encourage anyone reluctant to receive a shot on the importance of doing it. Among other things, he can testify on the impact of side effects.
To date, according to Northam, about 115,000 Virginians have received the first dose of the vaccine, and about 2,000 have received their second dose.
This is in the context of a total of 377,300 cases in Virginia so far, with a total of 5,226 deaths. In just the last 24 hours, 5,387 new cases were reported as the virus is exploding nationwide in the recent weeks. Northam said that no cases of the new, ultra-virulent British mutation of the virus have been found in the state so far.
According to Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields, reporting to the City Council Monday night, there have been about 200 vaccinations in the City so far, with priorities being elderly residents of the Sunrise and Kensington assisted living homes.
He and Council members expressed their frustrations at the slow progress in the vaccination process, and Mayor David Tarter said that he would raise the issue with the Northern Virginia Regional Commission at its meeting Monday.
The governor outlined new steps to accelerate the distribution of the vaccines, beginning with setting a new goal of 25,000 per day, above the 14,000 doses that has been the goal per date. Once the goal of 25,000 a day has been met, it will be increased to 50,000 per day with the aim of vaccinating all 8.5 million Virgnians, each of whom will require two shots, by the summer.
Northam reiterated the sequencing of the vaccine distributions, noting that the so far vaccines have been limited to Phase 1a-qualified persons, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control. They include doctors, nurses, EMTs and other healthcare professionals. Also those who live and work in long term care facilities fall in the Phase 1a category. That category covers 500,000 people in Virginia.
Phase 1b, which is next in line, will include “top essential workers,” such as firefighters, police officers, teachers, grocery store workers, transit workers, mail carriers, food and agricultural workers and all adults 75 and up. Northam announced that he added K-12 teachers and child care workers to the Phase 1b list. That group totals about 1.2 million Virginians.
The third group, Phase 1c, will follow the 1b group to include essential workers in construction, transportation, food service, utilities, adults aged 65 and up, and people aged 16-64 with high risk medical conditions. That covers about 2.5 million Virginians.
Then everybody else can get vaccinated, for Virginia meaning another six million or so.
Northam said that as more doses become available, the Virginia National Guard logistical support and help local health departments administer the vaccines.
He said that the Virginia Department of Health is developing an online portal to help people understand how to register to receive a vaccination.
Northam announced the appointment of Dr. Danny TK Avula to spearhead the state’s vaccination program, and that he will be joined by Dr. Anthony Fauci on Friday at 3 p.m. for an online Q&A open to the public.