Vaccine deliveries continue in Richmond despite winter weather

Coronavirus

Medical staff receive part of a Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine shipment at the UZ Leuven hospital in Leuven, Belgium, Saturday, Dec. 26, 2020. Belgium is preparing to begin its Covid-19 vaccination program, with first vaccinations beginning on Monday. (Nicolas Maeterlinck, Pool via AP)

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Richmond metro area experienced several closings, delays, and schedule changes Monday as the result of accumulated snow and ice over the weekend, including the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD) vaccination event for local seniors.

The Sunday event was postponed to Tuesday. However, RHHD officials say the winter weather has not impacted deliveries of vaccines doses in the area.

“Vaccine delivery was not delayed,” RHHD Nurse Manager Amy Popovich said. “We actually got our vaccines this morning.”

Pfizer vaccine doses are shipped directly to RHHD from the manufacturer via various package delivery companies, while Moderna vaccine doses are shipped through a medical supply company.

As for the vaccines that were supposed to be used for thousands of elderly residents at Sunday’s event, Popovich says they did not go to waste.

“We had 4,500 doses of Pfizer vaccine to use, so we were able to use those on Saturday, and 2,500 doses of Moderna, which we’ll use tomorrow,” she said. “The Pfizer was able to be used first, which is the more volatile of the vaccines, and we have the Moderna for tomorrow, which, of course, in the refrigerator, is good for the 28 days.”

According to a tweet from the Richmond City Health District (RCHD), 4,854 seniors were vaccinated Saturday ahead of the winter storm as part of Governor Ralph Northam’s push to get as many immunizations against the virus to Virginia residents as quickly as possible.

Popovich says the remaining doses, meant to be used Sunday, were able to be stored properly so they can be used Tuesday instead.

“There continues to be a high volume of demand,” she said. “There’s over 63,000 [interest forms] for those 65 and older, and over 41,000 forms for the Phase 1b individuals. This may include a few duplicates.”

In total, Popovich says RHHD has received more than 100,000 forms from residents looking to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Over the course of the last week, RHHD reports administering 15,239 vaccine doses at local and regional events.

“We’ll continue to assess the rest of opening up to [Phase] 1b based on vaccine supply and available appointments,” Popovich said. “We haven’t forgotten about the rest of [Phase] 1b.”

Although she says RHHD is registering individuals for vaccination appointments as quickly as possible, health districts throughout Virginia face a larger data collection challenge.

“We don’t have a registration for our closed events,” Popovich said. “We have been using the CDC VAMS system that has been used since the past six weeks or so, since the beginning of our vaccination events. It does allow for any vaccine-eligible person in the state to select an appointment from any vaccination registration in the entire VAMS system, so we continue to explore the registration options so we can continue to have targeted events with systems that are built for that.”

One such system is called PrepMod. Popovich says RHHD will begin transitioning to the new system on Tuesday, Feb. 2.

“If you already have your appointment in VAMS, you will get that appointment,” she said. “But we are transferring future events to PrepMod. So once an individuals comes for their first vaccination, they will have been through VAMS, and then at our event, we will transition them to PrepMod. We are seeing a better user experience.”

Even with the prospect of an improved data collection and management system, RHHD still faces the challenge of demand for the COVID-19 vaccine outweighing supply.

Popovich says that Governor Northam last week mentioned a 16 percent increase in the commonwealth’s supply of vaccine doses.

“We anticipate it could affect our supply next week, but we have not received specifics on that yet,” she said.

Popovich says that health systems in the greater Richmond area last week opted to give RHHD their vaccine doses in order to support a regional effort to speed up vaccination against COVID-19. As regional districts, immunizations were administered to residents of Richmond, Henrico, Chickahominy, and Chesterfield.

“We got a collective 8,000 vaccines from our health district partners for these large events that we’ve been able to focus on seniors,” Popovich said. “This week, our allocation is 6,300 for Richmond-Henrico, a slight adjustment from last week because the state reevaluated population sizes.”

RHHD initially received 6,400 vaccine doses last week.

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