Head of Virginia vaccine rollout says second doses should arrive on time despite shortage


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The next group of Virginia residents is now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine despite VDH reporting that the demand for vaccines is surpassing their supply.

Phase 1b includes frontline essential workers, people 65 or older, and people 16 to 65 with underlying health conditions. It also includes people living in correctional facilities, homeless shelters or migrant labor camps.

Several large scale vaccination events are planned in the Richmond area this week. Roughly 8,000 locals are expected to get their first shot in the coming days. To learn more about getting vaccinated in Richmond or Henrico, click here.

As these efforts are underway, the state’s future vaccine efforts are in limbo. The state is currently administering roughly 20,000 doses of the vaccine a day. The ultimate goal is to give out 50,000 a day.

However, on Saturday VDH reported a shortage could make those plans difficult. “Last week, we had 300,000 dose requests by hospitals, health departments, private providers and pharmacies,” said Dr. Danny Avula, who is leading the state’s vaccine rollout. “But we could only meet 105,000 of those,” he said.

Dr. Avula added it was the first time that the demand has surpassed supply in the state. He said it may be weeks or months until things change.

“I don’t worry about our ability to get vaccine out. I worry about our ability to draw vaccine down from the federal government if it’s just not there,” he said.

Thousands of Virginians also still need their second shots. “At least right now, there’s not going to be a huge release of second dose vaccine,” he said. With that said, Avula told 8News he’s confident the federal government will send a second dose for each Virginian. “So far, the federal government has delivered on all of those second doses. He explained that the federal government is keeping track of when first doses go out and will send second doses to the same providers three weeks later.

The state may soon be getting more weekly doses as well. Over the weekend, Dr. Anthony Fauci said the AztraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are just weeks away from being approved by the U.S. There’s also a new presidential administration preparing to take over the country’s COVID-19 response.

“With the Biden administration coming in, what they’re saying is that they’re putting more money into ramping up production. So the possibility exists that there will be more vaccine sooner than later,” Dr. Avula said.

As the shortage has no tangible end in sight, Avula is also urging people who can safely stay home to hold off on getting the vaccine for now. “I really want us to allow our elderly and those with serious underlying conditions to get to the front of that line.”

State health officials hope to vaccinate a majority of Virginians by early to mid-summer. However, because of the shortages, some folks eligible under the current phase of vaccinations may not get their shot for some time, according to Avula. “With the supply constrained as much as it is, that will likely be a couple of months for some of those folks in 1b,” he said.

Incomplete data entries could also pose a threat to the amount of vaccines given to the state. Avula said not all data is being entered into VDH’s system. In turn, health officials don’t have an accurate picture of how many doses have actually been given out versus how many have just been distributed. “I suspect there’s probably upwards of 200,000 doses that have been done, shots in arms have taken place, but that data hasn’t been appropriately uploaded into our system,” he said.

To solve this problem, Avula said a new team of ten VDH employees is starting this week to work with providers to make sure data entered is correct and troubleshoot any problems.

Virginians who want to know when they can get the vaccine can visit the VDH website and find out their eligibility.

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