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Frustration grows as vaccine supply shrinks: 'You can't get a shot'

Posted at 4:20 PM, Jan 25, 2021

RICHMOND, Va. -- As some Virginians grow frustrated with their inability to get a COVID-19 vaccine, the Richmond and Henrico Health District held a briefing on Monday to discuss how they're handling the roll out, while shipments of the vaccine are expected to stay stagnant.

Virginia continues to rank near the bottom across in the U.S. when it comes to distributing its share of the vaccine -- at 47% as of Monday.

Officials said multiple factors, like data entry issues are to blame for the holdup, but they agree they need to do better.

A shortage of the vaccine is leading local health districts to change up their plan, while those who qualify are left waiting.

Bob Johnson, a 74-year-old Richmond resident, is one of many that qualify for the vaccine under Phase 1B.

“Maybe, there'll be enough shots someday that they'll get around to us,” Johnson said, who added he has made several attempts to get vaccinated without any success including contacting his primary care physician, his local pharmacies, and healthcare systems. “We can't make a reservation and you can't get a shot."

He is not alone in his struggle.

While much of the state moves into Phase 1B and expands the eligibility pool, local health districts are getting fewer doses than they are requesting.

“Our vaccine supply this week is 6,400 between Richmond and Henrico. That's about a fourth of the vaccine that we requested and about a fourth of our capacity,” said Amy Popovich, a Nurse Manager with the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD).

As a result, she said, they're pausing some of the partnerships they had set up for distribution and will handle it mostly themselves while being very intentional about how they split up the vaccines.

“Half of it for seniors, 40% for essential workers, and 10% for our congregate populations,” Popovich said. She added that the older people in each of those groups will get preference.

She added they're preparing a new sign-up system with the state, but said, for now, people in Richmond and Henrico should fill in the interest form on their website.

Around 60,000 citizens have already signed up, according to Popovich. Roughly 40,000 of those are people above the age of 65.

As to when health officials will get in touch with you, Popovich said, “We can't give you an exact number of days. Unfortunately, it really all depends on our vaccine supply. But, we will contact you as soon as there's a vaccine available to you.”

Johnson had not signed on that page, but said he did enter his information on a now defunct portion of the Virginia Department of Health's "When Can I Get Vaccinated" tool.

A spokesperson for RHHD said that section is no longer active and localities are collecting information for people interested in the vaccine. They said contact information inputted on that VDH page had been forwarded to them and it was being integrated into their list.

According to Popovich, they will be launching mass vaccination events for citizens that are 65 or older and visiting independent living facilities.

Johnson said he has a 99-year-old father who lives in the independent living portion of a facility that also has assisted living and memory care services.

He said he was unable to get a vaccine for his father until he found out that his father, as a veteran over 75, qualified to get vaccinated at a VA hospital and received his first dose of the vaccine at Hunter Holmes McGuire Medical Center last Friday.