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Virginia vaccine shortage may not improve until March: 'We're going to have to be patient'

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Posted at 5:13 PM, Jan 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-21 18:32:48-05

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Smaller-than-expected vaccine deliveries from the federal government have caused frustration and confusion and limited states’ ability to attack the COVID-19 outbreak that has killed over 400,000 Americans. Over the past few days, authorities in California, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida and Hawaii warned that their supplies were running out.

Virginia, for example, received just 105,000 of the over 300,000 requested COVID-19 vaccine doses.

That has led to supply issues across the state, according to Dr. Danny Avula, the Richmond-Henrico Health Director tasked with managing statewide vaccination rollout.

Avula said the supply issue would not likely improve until March when new vaccines are expected to be approved.

"We're going to have to be patient, as we get through 1B, we're going to work really hard to focus on our most vulnerable -- the elderly and those with underlying conditions," Avula said. "And, as well, at the same time, ensure that we create opportunities for folks in that essential worker/1B to get vaccinated. But, given the supply demands we're facing it is going to be a couple of months."

Avula and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam visited a mass vaccination site Thursday as state leaders face questions about Virginia's low ranking when it comes to the percentage of the vaccine they've received actually going into the arms of Virginians.

"Our goal was to initially get up to 25,000 doses a day in Virginia, we're now right around 20,000 a day," Governor Northam said.

The Virginia Department of Health website showed Virginia at under 42-percent, five percentage points lower than the national average, according to Bloomberg's tracker.

State officials said they're working to close that gap through mass vaccination events like the one Thursday at Richmond Raceway, but again said there was a lag in reporting -- an issue they're trying to fix.

In addition, there are over 200,000 doses in the control of the federal program to vaccinate long-term care facilities.

Some of those facilities are facing challenges such as outbreaks that have delayed vaccination efforts by a few weeks.

Currently, the state is averaging just under 20,000 doses a day.

Avula said Virginia has the capacity for 40,000, but the supply of the vaccine coming into the state is the issue.

"What we've heard is that we can anticipate, we can expect that what we're getting right now is what we're likely going to get through February," Avula said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.