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'Roadblock' blamed for Virginia's lagging COVID-19 vaccination rollout

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Posted at 11:24 PM, Jan 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-16 23:27:42-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- As nearly one million COVID-19 vaccines have been distributed across the Commonwealth, close to only 300,000 of those doses have been administered.

Health leaders, responding to criticism about the speed of the state’s vaccination rollout, said Saturday they are hitting a "roadblock" with the number of doses they are receiving from the federal government.

In fact, Dr. Danny Avula, who has been tasked by Gov. Ralph Northam to lead the state’s vaccination program, said the state is receiving 110,000 doses each week.

However, the federal government promised states last week they would release a reserve number of doses to speed up vaccination nationwide, but Virginia leaders say it now appears that the stockpile does not exist.

And without more of those doses coming in, Avula said it could now take months to establish mass vaccination sites in Central Virginia.

Officials said they hope to move into the second phase of vaccinations very soon.

“The circumstance of our expansion to 1B occurred with the hopes that we would be receiving a lot more vaccine,” Avula explained. “The reality that we are not going to be seeing that likely does mean there is still a constrained supply and lot of demand."

Avula said most parts of Virginia will move into phase 1B within the next few weeks.

That includes people 65 years and older as well as these frontline essential workers:

  • Police, Fire, and Hazmat
  • Corrections and homeless shelter workers
  • Childcare/PreK-12 Teachers/Staff
  • Food and Agriculture (including veterinarians)
  • Manufacturing
  • Grocery store workers
  • Public transit workers
  • Mail carriers (USPS and private)
  • Officials needed to maintain continuity of government (including judges and public facing judicial workers)

Officials said vaccination programs for healthcare workers and long-term care residents will continue at the same time.

"If you can work from home, if you consistently are wearing a mask and social distancing and doing all the things that will help prevent you from getting COVID, let's let the folks who are most susceptible to this disease get vaccinated first,” Avula pleaded. “I just think we're going to have to allow for that to happen given we're not going to get the doses we need for a few months.”

COVID-19 Precautions

Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.

COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.

Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid non-essential travel.