HAMPTON, Va. – Hampton City Schools kindergarten teacher Kristina Kearney rolled up her sleeve Friday for her first dose of that potentially life-saving shot.
“My arm is a little sore, but I’m glad I did this to take part in what could potentially save a lot of lives,” said Kearney.
The Hampton Convention Center was transformed into a mega vaccination site.
“The process was very smooth,” said Geraldine Roberts, a Special Needs Functional Teacher at Bethel High School. “[I] walked right in. They guided us to each station.”
The Peninsula and Hampton Health Districts moved into phase 1B for COVID-19 vaccinations Friday. The group includes frontline essential workers, including teachers and first responders, and those 75 and older for now. People aged 65 will have to wait due to challenges with supply.
As more health districts begin to vaccinate frontline essential workers, several area hospitals that have been leading the way in the number of COVID-19 shots in arms are quickly running dry on doses.
Julian Walker is the Vice President of Communications for the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA), which is comprised of 26 health systems representing 110 hospitals across the Commonwealth.
“Unless and until supply is ramped up, that is going to be an impediment to number of shots that can be administered,” Walker said. “It really is that simple.”
Walker said each week, several hospitals are running low on vaccines, and unless a new shipment comes in, the supply on hand could be gone by Friday evening.
“The Commonwealth’s allocation of vaccine doses from the federal government has been somewhat limited and that’s not exclusive or unique to Virginia, it’s something that states across the nation are grappling with,” he said.
Both Riverside and Sentara’s hospital systems admit their supplies are low.
A spokesperson for Sentara Healthcare sent a statement that read:
“COVID-19 Vaccine supplies are low across the nation, and Sentara is currently experiencing that same trend. Our vaccine supply is controlled by the Commonwealth of Virginia and we continue to work with the Virginia Department of Health and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to support COVID-19 vaccine administration using their phased approach.
“Sentara launched its first employee COVID-19 vaccine clinic on December 15th, 2020. To date, we have administered nearly 27,000 vaccines to Sentara employees and community healthcare workers defined in Phase 1a. We currently have appointments booked through early March. Our clinics are administering first and second doses.
“This week, Sentara began offering a limited number of vaccines to eligible Phase 1b patients in Virginia who have a Sentara Medical Group (SMG) primary care provider, starting with those who are 75 years and older. We are contacting eligible patients using a phased approach and will expand our clinics depending on future vaccine supply. Eligible SMG patients will be contacted directly through their Sentara MyChart account or by phone/text message when they are able to schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment.
“We appreciate everyone’s patience and continued cooperation as we work with our state departments of health to ensure everyone interested in receiving a COVID-19 vaccine will have access to one.”
In a statement, President and COO of Riverside Dr. Mike Dacey said,
“Riverside is doing everything it can to vaccinate across our community as quickly as possible. However, due to the limited supply from the State, we are limited in our ability to provide vaccines to all who want them.
“With this in mind, we have started Phase 1b vaccination with Riverside primary care patients 75 years of age and older. As we have done throughout the pandemic, we will continue to provide full transparency to our patients and the community. Early next week we will begin sharing a weekly update on eligibility, doses and appointments through a digital tracker on our website and social media.
“Our goal is to vaccinate all Riverside patients (those in our primary care practices as well as those who use our outstanding specialists) in the newly revised 1b grouping and as many in the community that we can as supplies are made available to us. This is an evolving process and as more doses are provided by the Virginia Department of Health and the federal government for wider distribution, we will adjust our efforts accordingly.”
Walker said many health systems are facing an ongoing challenge with supply and demand after doses are divvied up throughout the state.
“We are at the mercy of the Commonwealth based on its determinations on allocation and the Commonwealth in turn is at the mercy of the federal government based on the supply that is provided,” he said. “The governor has set an aspirational goal of doing 25,000 doses a day, but if you’re only getting 100,000 doses allocated per week from the federal government then you run into a math issue. It’s impossible numerically to do 25,000 doses a day if you’re not getting a supply that’s adequate to accomplish that.”
However, Walker said they’re remaining optimistic. So far, he said hospitals have administered more than 234,000 doses of the COVID vaccine, a number that represents the majority of doses administered in the state.
Many including Kearney, believe the vials offer so much promise.
“I hope it helps,” she said. “I really hope it helps especially being in school with the kids. I know the kids can’t get the vaccinated right away.”
Special Education Instructional Assistant Sandra Florez agreed.
“I had no reservations whatsoever about getting the shot,” she said. “We’re just one step closer to getting back to our kids. That’s what we want. We want to be there for our kids.”