Norfolk teachers to be vaccinated this week as officials work to close vaccination gap

Posted at 3:05 PM, Feb 01, 2021

NORFOLK, Va. - The latest data from the Department of Health shows nearly 12,000 vaccine doses have been administered in the city compared to nearly 75,000 doses received.

Norfolk ranks near the bottom of vaccines administered per 100,000 compared to the rest of Hampton Roads. Only Portsmouth's rate is lower among the seven cities, according to VDH data updated Monday.

Health officials have attributed the lower numbers to delays in the data entry system, particularly among hospitals. A city spokesperson directed questions about the vaccine rollout to the Norfolk Health Department.

No one was available in the department to answer further questions on Monday. Norfolk shares a health district director with Virginia Beach, where more than 34,000 doses have been administered. Local health districts report to VDH, not city governments.

Local governments have been involved in helping to plan mass vaccination sites. Over the weekend, nearly 5,000 people were vaccinated during a mass vaccination event at Scope in downtown Norfolk.

Health officials say these types of events are key to bridging the gap. "What I see moving forward is really feeding the max vaccine channels," said Dr. Danny Avula, who is overseeing the vaccine rollout for VDH.

Moving forward, vaccines will be distributed to local health departments, not hospitals or other health systems. The supply of vaccine is also expected to increase by 16-percent, but still supply remains much lower than demand.

"I think the take home for the public is, yes, there are plenty of places that can vaccinate, but there isn't the vaccine to actually do it," said Avula. "Until there is vaccine to actually do it, we need to manage our expectations and we are likely in a line that's going to last for weeks and months."

Norfolk officials are telling people it could take four to eight weeks to be able to schedule appointments if they pre-registered under Phase 1b. More than 16,000 people signed-up last week.

Nearly 2,000 school employees will be getting vaccinated this week. Still, the head of the local teachers union is worried the city is falling behind other local cities.

"As far as I'm concerned, I'm very disappointed in the rollout in Norfolk. I don't know that the reasons are. I'm not trying to blame anyone, but rollout doesn't seem to have been that efficient," said Thomas Calhoun, the president of the Norfolk Federation of Teachers.

Calhoun believes vaccination is the key to getting students safely back in the classroom. "If we're going to open schools back up safely, I feel like the teachers should be vaccinated before we go back in," he said.

Dr. Avula continues to stress patience before they can really scale up the vaccination process with more mass vaccination events.

"If we had more vaccine, those would start tomorrow," he said.