Valley Republicans push Gov. Northam on COVID-19 vaccinations
A group of Valley Republicans – Dels. Chris Runion, John Avoli, Ronnie Campbell and Tony Wilt, and State Sen. Mark Obenshain – sent a letter to Gov. Ralph Northam on Friday pressing him on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
It was with great anticipation that we watched your recent press conferences on the Commonwealth’s plans and progress on vaccinating Virginians against COVID-19. The COVID-19 vaccines are a beacon of light in a dark period of our Commonwealth’s and world’s history. In order for Virginians to escape the grasp of COVID-19 and the ensuing pandemic, the vaccine rollout must be done strategically and speedily. An effective plan is vital to saving lives, relieving our hospitals and health care providers of the added demands posed by the virus, as well as reopening our schools and economy.
Over the past several weeks, we have monitored the data on the Virginia Department of Health’s dashboard and had conversations with our local hospitals, health care providers, and health districts about the progress to date. It is evident through these conversations that our hospitals have done outstanding work to vaccinate their employees and other local health care providers, coordinate with their colleagues to plan for vaccinating high-risk populations and the broader public, and, in some cases, already set up clinics to support local vaccination efforts. It is also evident, however, that there are real challenges that must be addressed before we can reach the Commonwealth’s goal of vaccinating 25,000, and then 50,000, Virginians per day.
For example, Virginia hospitals reported that they have administered more than 175,000 vaccines. This represents the strong majority of doses administered across the state so far. The VDH dashboard on Friday, January 15th, however, showed that hospitals have done 122,870 vaccinations. The dashboard also reported a total of 242,530 vaccines administered statewide, despite the Commonwealth receiving 943,400 doses. We understand there will always be a lag in the data as it is reported and aggregated, but it is unclear to us why the discrepancy is so large. More importantly, it is unclear to us why approximately only a quarter of the doses the state has received have been administered to Virginians so far.
The discrepancy between the number of doses administered and the number of doses distributed to the state is even more concerning given our understanding that many hospitals have received far fewer doses than requested recently. In conversations with other local health care providers, we have heard that they are willing and able to administer vaccines but have yet to receive any doses or information about when they can expect them. It seems prudent given the urgency of quickly vaccinating as many Virginians as possible to ensure willing health care providers have the doses, they need to vaccinate their communities.
A steady and reliable stream of doses for our local hospitals, health care providers, and health districts is needed to support their coordination and planning as the number of Virginians eligible to receive the vaccines expands. Each of these providers is working through their own individual plans, as well as working together with their colleagues to support broader community efforts. That planning is made more difficult, however, when they cannot anticipate the number of vaccines and related resources needed to support their vaccination efforts.
We know that vaccinating Virginia and her millions of citizens is a daunting task. Most importantly, there’s still significant work left to be done. Moving forward, we ask that there is more timely and transparent reporting around the number of doses administered across the state, that hospitals and health care providers be assured of a reliable and sufficient stream of vaccines to meet their local needs, and that there is greater coordination at the state level among the parties involved in vaccinating Virginians. Without these important improvements to the vaccination program, it will be difficult at best to reach the Commonwealth’s goal of vaccinating 25,000 and ultimately 50,000 Virginians per day.
We are happy to further discuss the vaccination program and progress in our respective communities at your convenience.