NORFOLK, Va. - More than 228,000 white people have been vaccinated in Virginia, which is more than double the amount of racial groups combined, according to data from the Virginia Department of Health.
Much of the data is incomplete, with no race listed for more than 320,000 people who've gotten a vaccine, but getting that information is a priority for Gov. Northam and some state lawmakers.
A bill passed in the House of Delegates would require the reporting of race with vaccine data. Gov. Northam is also directing health departments to collect that information and wants people to input that data when they request a vaccination appointment. "I directed the team to do more and move faster," Northam said Wednesday during a press conference.
"It's concerning," said Gaylene Kanoyton, a member of the vaccine advisory work group, who says she's had a seat at the table to make sure these issues are being addressed. "We want to make sure the data is there."
Kayoton said she has faith in the state's vaccine coordinator, Dr. Danny Avula, to ensure the vaccine rollout is done in a fair way. "They're trying to be transparent," she said. "They're not trying to hide anything, but they know our concerns that we want to make sure there's equity in the distribution of the vaccine."
Going forward, communications efforts will be made on local levels to reach as many people as possible. "There's going to be some hyper-local efforts, especially with churches to ensure that they're involved," she said.
Part of the job is building up trust to members of the community who might be hesitant to get vaccinated. "[For people of color], there's a natural fear of vaccines when it's offered by the government, but I will tell you - this vaccine is as safe as any other," said Newport News Sheriff Gabe Morgan, who is now fully vaccinated.
Morgan experienced just minor arm pain when getting vaccinated. He's hoping his experience will be an example for others. "We all can help stop [COVID] and get our lives back to normal by just rolling up our sleeves," he said.
Community advocates are continuing to spread the message the vaccine is safe as supply increases. "This is like a campaign. Our candidate is the vaccine. Our opponent is COVID-19, and we have to GOTV: Get out the vaccine," said Kanoyton.