RICHMOND, Va. - Facing escalating criticism over the state's rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam outlined a series of policy changes and initiatives Wednesday that he said would make the process smoother and more transparent.
While the latest federal data show Virginia has made improvements in getting more shots into arms, Northam acknowledged there's still much work to be done.
“I feel the frustration out there. I also, as a medical provider, feel the urgency. We are doing everything that we can to save lives," Northam said at a news conference in Richmond.
Northam announced that he had directed the state health department to create a single, statewide vaccination registration system.
When state officials announced earlier this month that Virginia was vastly expanding the pool of people eligible to receive a shot, it created confusion about where and when to sign up.
“That confusion is justified because the answer has not been clear," Northam said.
He did not provide a date when the system would become available but said it would be soon.
Currently, the state directs people to call their local health department or visit its website for information.
The governor also announced that the state health department would be publishing additional data about vaccine distribution and usage on its online dashboard and seeking to fill in significant gaps in demographic information about who has received the doses so far.
Further, he said his administration had worked with hospital systems to shift inventory so that health providers can get 40,000 additional shots into arms by Sunday. Just over 600,000 shots have been administered in Virginia so far.
The latest available data from the CDC's COVID data tracker shows Virginia's inoculation rate compared to other states has improved.
The state, which had generally been hovering in the bottom 10 in terms of doses administered per 100,000 people, had risen to the middle of the pack by Wednesday.
Northam noted Virginia was ranked 26th and on par with most of its neighbors, though not on pace with West Virginia, which has been doing exceptionally well.
Northam cheered the news announced Tuesday that President Joe Biden's administration is working to buy an additional 100 million doses of each of the two approved coronavirus vaccines.
He said that while Virginia would begin to receive about 16% more doses starting with the orders it will place on Thursday, supply is not expected to immediately catch up with demand.
He said it's imperative that Virginians keep following social distancing measures and also announced that he is extending for at least another 30 days a number of coronavirus-related restrictions, including a prohibition on public gatherings with more than 10 people and a curfew that requires most Virginians to stay at home between midnight and 5 a.m.