RICHMOND, Va (WRIC) – The Virginia Department of Health has distributed over 900,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses statewide but only over 295,000 have been administered to Virginians.
This gap is one issue VDH Dr. Danny Avula said the health department is running into as the state begins Phase 1b of vaccinations.
“As we look around the Commonwealth, we see a fantastic example of health departments, health systems, different partners joining together to get many people vaccinated every single day,” said Dr. Avula.
When the federal government encouraged states earlier in the week to include 65-year-olds and those 16 to 64-year-olds with underlying health conditions to add to Phase 1b, it also said all doses, including first and second, would be released.
Now, Dr. Avula said they’re hearing different messages, including not all vaccines may be released and there may not be more than the current 100,000 to 110,000 vaccine doses given out each week.
“We will have all of these developed mechanisms to get a vaccine down, but we will be limited then by that dosing of 110,000 or so,” said Dr. Daniel Carey, Secretary of Health and Human Resources with VDH.
Dr. Avula said Saturday this week was the first week Virginia has had more demand for vaccines than supply.
He said there were over 300,000 requests for doses across the state this week, but the federal government is only giving Virginia 100,000 to 110,000 doses for first shots in the two shot vaccine, a week.
This week, the federal government gave Virginia 106,000 first doses of the vaccine. Officials said 61,000 second doses of the vaccine are expected to be released to Virginia this week.
With second doses, Dr. Avula said VDH is asking providers to prioritize those individuals who’ve received the first dose already. For the leftover second doses that those with the first dose did not choose to receive, VDH asks providers to go ahead and use those second doses as they would first doses.
“Right now, the imperative is really to use all of the doses you have,” he said.
He also stresses the importance of prioritizing who should get vaccinated first.
“I hope that in that part of the state, as well as everywhere, we still allow the folks who are most vulnerable, the folks who are, you know at highest risk of COVID complications, of COVID hospitalizations, and of deaths, that we allow them to go first,” Dr. Avula said.
There were challenges with knowing which health districts to give the vaccines to, and Dr. Avula said a lack of clarity within the number of doses is a second issue.
He said there’s not enough data being entered into the system to give an accurate picture of how many doses have actually been given versus how many have been distributed.
But, Dr. Avula said a new team of 10 people will go into action next week, working with providers to make sure data entered is correct and to troubleshoot any problems.
“The question you’re probably all thinking is that it’s going to take us a long time to get to 25,000 doses a day, or 50,000 doses a day, and that’s not even going to be possible with the supply that we’re being provided,” Dr. Avula said. “But, it’s also going to take a long time to get through all of the residents of Virginia and I do feel like that’s the challenge of where we are.”
Dr. Avula said most or all of Virginia’s health districts will join the other 11 health districts to move into Phase 1b next week. He said the number of doses available should increase by March.