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Richmond health official urges patience as vaccine demand, outweighs supply

"We don’t have as much vaccine as we have people who will be eligible."
Posted at 12:08 PM, Jan 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-19 14:33:25-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- As mass vaccination events for Phase 1b begin in the Commonwealth, more people will be rolling up their sleeves -- but perhaps not as quickly as some hope.

In a Tuesday interview, Policy Director Ruth Morrison with the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts said just because you’re eligible, doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily receive your vaccine right away.

"I think it’s fair to say that Phase 1b is going as fast as we can make it go in public health, but it’s not as fast as the demand clearly exists in our priority groups across Virginia," said Morrison. "It does ask of all of us some ongoing patience."

In using a phased approach, she said health officials will vaccinate one population category at a time to organize the flow of vaccine to different groups of people -- and part of that phased approach includes categorizing even Phase 1b.

The priority for this week includes teachers, especially in face-to-face exposure, frontline/essential workers, and childcare works, as well as those individuals who live in or work at congregate facilities, and those who are 65 and older.

"For all of these groups, the total population relative to the total availability of vaccine is not matched," said Morrison.

"We don’t have as much vaccine as we have people who will be eligible in just those categories."

Morrison said for the most part, when it’s your turn to get your vaccine, you will be contacted whether it’s through your employer, your primary care physician, etc.

For teachers, she said health districts are working closely with school leadership to prioritize people who are most exposed or at risk. She said even if it is your turn — not everyone will be registered to get vaccinated at the same event.

"We have a certain amount of capacity for administering doses at different events so it’s important that we sort of route people to different rooms sort of speak," said Morrison.

For those eligible for the vaccine under Phase 1b but not included in the first roll out (like those under 65 with comorbidities or grocery store workers), Morrison said the timing of when you get your vaccine is completely dependent on the availability of supply.

But she said health districts were working to make it happen as soon as possible.

"We truly understand the urgency here. And as doses become available, we will be speeding them to access for these priority populations in the phased approach," said Morrison. "Since dosage is constrained right now -- we have not in Virginia gotten the dosage allotment that we've requested or requested over the past week -- it just means that we, all of us, are being asked to continue to show patience and we know that that is difficult.

For those that believe they are eligible and in a priority group, but have not been contacted, Morrison recommended filling out the survey here.

She said this was not a registration process, but a way health officials measure demand and interest.

"We're not using that as a way to pump people into the front of the line. It's not first come first serve. It's a way for us to gauge our operational planning demands," said Morrison. "You know, for say, a childcare worker, working for a daycare center that has not been in touch with our Health District yet, that has not had that court level coordination yet, by filling out the interest survey and noting, I'm a childcare worker, I work in x setting and you know, we collect that information on who you work for and where it's located. If the setting is in Richmond, and Henrico then we do that work to figure out where are we in the process? Have we been communicating with your center leadership already? And if not, now, we we've got that added to our list."