Health officials explain why Virginia's vaccine numbers are lagging behind

Virus Outbreak Vaccine Injury Claims
Posted at 7:24 AM, Jan 06, 2021

RICHMOND, Va. -- Tuesday marked three weeks since Virginia began administering doses of COVID-19 vaccine, and some Virginians who have received the Pfizer vaccine and have now gotten their second of two doses are fully vaccinated against the virus.

“It was really exciting, yet again, to finally get to that point,” said Cassie Lewis, who works as a Nurse Practitioner and Chief Quality Officer with the Bon Secours and received her second dose. Not only does she work directly with COVID-19 patients, but she also planned the health system’s vaccination program and was the first to receive both the first and second doses of the vaccine.

“I've been looking forward to it for days after working this weekend and seeing patients. It was one of those things where I was like, ‘Only a couple more days away and I'll be able to get the vaccine and then I can actually, truly, likely be immune for everything,'" she added. “So, it was really exciting to go and see everybody that was there the first day that we did this, going through the same process, and still the same level of excitement and, almost, a level of reassurance that they were going to be okay.”

As for her physical reaction to her shot, Lewis said she felt good with no reactions.

“Honestly didn't even feel it go in the second time, just like I did the first time,” said Lewis. “So, right now, so far, so good.”

Lewis stressed that as people enter their window for their second dose (the Pfizer vaccine can be administered after 21 days [], the Moderna vaccine can be administered after 28 days []) it is important to show up for that second appointment.

“I think that second dose is critical, but, also cannot underestimate and understate the importance, still, of mask-wearing, hand washing — the standard precautions — socially distancing from others and limiting the social gatherings,” added Lewis. “Just because of the vaccine doesn't mean that we need to let our guard down for all of those other things that we're doing right now to protect the public.”

Statewide Rollout

At the statewide level, the Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH) COVID-19 database shows that as of Tuesday 481,550 doses of the vaccine (including both first and second doses) had been distributed and 104,083 people had been vaccinated with at least one dose, which is about 21.6%.

VDH’s Deputy Commissioner of Population Health Dr. Laurie Forlano said there will “likely always” be a gap between those two figures on the website for a number of reasons.

“One is it does take time. Even once doses are distributed to a location it takes time to get those doses from where they've been received and stored and then to the given clinic or setting in which they'll be administered,” said Forlano. “Reporting or data issues — simply put, in general, it takes a bit of time between when you receive a shot and when that provider can input the data or the record that you've been vaccinated into our systems.”

Forlano said the number of doses administered is likely higher than is on the website, but did not have an estimate as to what the number was. Forlano added she is proud of how many people they have vaccinated in three weeks' time.

“Two weeks of which were pretty significant holidays for a lot of people and they were looking to get a breather there. So, I'm pretty proud of that number. That's not at all say that we can't do better,” added Forlano. “It's all hands on deck to improve the efficiencies, grow the scale of the operation, and I really do have confidence that we'll have more vaccinators on board, both in public and private settings. The vaccine unit here at VDH is building out lots of partnerships with pharmacies, doing outreach with health care providers and healthcare systems. And as we get down the lane to these future phases of the vaccine campaign we'll have a lot more hands on deck to put shots into people's arms.”

Currently, Virginia is its first phase, known as “Phase 1A”, of its vaccine rollout as it attempts to vaccinate roughly 500,000 healthcare workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities. Forlano said she is hesitant to put a target date on when that group will be finished, but said they aimed to have offered the vaccine to a majority of that group in the next few weeks.

When asked, Forlano said she did not have data on the number of people who had been offered the vaccine but refused to take it. But, she said she had heard anecdotally that while some healthcare personnel have declined the vaccine, she has heard more of an “overwhelming enthusiasm and eagerness to get the vaccine.”