RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia Governor Ralph Northam had a stern message for Virginians who refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine without a religious or medical reason.
"You are absolutely hurting other people," the Democrat and doctor said at a Monday briefing about Virginia's response to the virus. "This all was avoidable."
While COVID case counts and the percent of people testing positive for COVID is now going back down, he said they were still too high compared to where they were in the summer.
Northam said Virginia's COVID-related hospitalizations were mostly due to those who won't get vaccinated and he urged unvaccinated Virginia to get the shot.
"I hope you give some thought to how your family will remember you. Give some thought to what they'll do without you. Think about how you want your obituary to read, because you're taking a foolish, dangerous chance and it affects many more people than just you.," he said.
Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD) Dr. Danny Avula said fear of long-term side effects was one reason why unvaccinated Virginians have not gotten the shot, but it's not the only reason.
“People have lost trust in the government and so they don't know when the CDC makes a recommendation, they don't know if they can believe it or not," Avula said last month. "We need to listen, and we need to understand why it is that people have hesitations about this. And we need to continually bring good information, credible information in front of people and help them work to that decision."
Landon Johnson, who attended a vaccine round table last month at Village of Faith Church, echoed Dr. Avula's statements.
“We haven't had enough time to really see what it's really going to do," Johnson said when asked why he has not been vaccinated.
Northam, who tested posted for COVID-19 in September 2020, said the effects of the virus continue to linger.
"A year later, I still can't smell anything or taste anything," he said.
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 857,000 Virginians have tested positive for the virus and more than 12,592 Virginians have died with COVID-19.
More than 67% of the eligible population in Virginia has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The state also updated compliance with Northam's vaccine mandate for over 100,000 state employees.
Of those reported:
71% are fully vaccinated
16% are partially or not at all and undergoing weekly testing
13% haven't responded.
When asked if he would consider removing the testing option from his mandate and require the vaccine or an exemption, the governor said all options were on the table.
Pfizer Booster Shots
State health officials said they can handle the 700,000 Virginians now eligible for the Pfizer booster shots. The shots will be administered at 10 future mass vaccination clinics. The Richmond and Henrico Health Districts (RHHD) is taking booster appointments now. You can get more information here.
The following people are eligible for the booster:
- Booster-eligible individuals include those who received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago and fall into one of the following categories:
- Individuals 65 years or older
- Individuals 18 years or older living in a long-term care setting
- Individuals aged 50–64 years with underlying medical conditions that put them at high risk for severe COVID-19
- Individuals aged 18–49 years with underlying medical conditions that put them at high risk for severe COVID-19 based on their individual benefits and risks
- Individuals aged 18-64 years who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting based on their individual benefits and risks
"As we get towards the end of October, that need will increase when we anticipate that the Moderna booster will be approved,"RHHD Director Dr. Danny Avula said.
The end-of-October booster would likely overlap with vaccine approval for five-to-11-year-olds. But health and school officials said they hoped to offer shots to children in schools.
"We believe we need to make this as easy as humanly possible for our children and for our families so that we can get that vaccination rate as high as it possibly can be," Richmond Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras said.