Virginia looking to improve rate of vaccine usage, rollout

Posted at 11:28 PM, Jan 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-29 08:48:28-05

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. – As of Thursday, about 57% of the more than 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses distributed in Virginia have been used. That data is according to the CDC, which noted coding problems and data lags could account for some inaccuracies.

Virginia is not alone when it comes to the slow rate of vaccination. Virginia is roughly at the national average, ahead of Maryland, and slightly behind North Carolina and behind West Virginia.

“When the statistics say that around 50 percent of shots distributed to Virginia have been put into people’s arms, even if you’re having data problems, that seems somewhat low,” said ODU Professor of Economics Bob McNab. “We have to go back to a lack of planning and coordination from the federal government, and we have significant variations in rules and procedures.”

Several other states have surpassed Virginia in the vaccine rollout.

According to the federal data, West Virginia, which opted out of the federal government's distribution program, has administered the highest percentage of COVID-19 vaccines. That state has given out more than 80% of its doses.

“We obviously have an issue of getting shots from the state into people’s arms,” McNab said. “We have to ask ourselves, 'What is West Virginia doing right, and how can we learn from them?' Sometimes we have to be a little humble. We have to say, 'Maybe we don’t have all answers. Can we learn from people who are having success and emulate that?'"

A dwindling vaccine supply and lag in data reporting continue to be challenges, but Gov. Ralph Northam (D-Va.) said they’ve made substantial progress in the rollout process since last week.

The governor’s office said a large portion of doses that were unaccounted for by the CDC are designated for people waiting for their second shot. However, now that the state will know exactly how many doses it’ll be getting, they’ll be able to move inventory around for those second doses so that nothing is sitting on shelves for several days.

“We’re also working with hospitals and local health districts to make sure they’re not holding on to too much supply of second doses, especially if they won’t need it for several weeks,” said Gov. Northam during a press conference Wednesday.

By using a strategic inventory management system, the governor expects to put an additional 40,000 shots in arms this week.

The state is also working to streamline the registration process by creating a central statewide system, which is something McNab said needs to happen soon.

“There has got to be central coordination in terms of the registry and appointment system. Otherwise, people are going to - as they are now - start walking around the state and across state borders in search of the vaccine,” he said.

The governor’s office is also clarifying guidelines for health departments that will equally prioritize older folks and frontline essential workers.

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