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Chesterfield leaders call Virginia’s COVID vaccine plan 'totally defective'

Posted at 12:52 PM, Jan 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-26 18:34:30-05

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- The Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors has called out Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and other state leaders for the unavailability of COVID-19 vaccine both across Virginia and within the county.

"Virginia’s campaign to vaccinate the masses is totally defective," a letter to the governor signed by the county's five supervisors read."We have run out of patience and tolerance. Our citizens deserve better. They also deserve accountability as to what personnel or systems are responsible for the inordinate challenges that arise, almost daily."

Late last week Dr. Danny Avula, who was recently tapped by the governor to lead the vaccine distribution effort, said the state health department is working urgently to close the six-figure gap between the number of shots the state has received and the number that has gone into arms. But he said he has no concerns that any of the temperature-sensitive vaccines have been lost or misplaced.

“We really do have a good sense of where most of it is and what we need to do to get it off the shelves,” Avula, speaking at a mass vaccination event for police officers, child care workers and other frontline essential workers at the Richmond Raceway. said.

The difference between the approximately 960,000 doses the state has received and the approximately 400,000 it reported having administered last week has raised sharp criticism from some state lawmakers.

Some local officials have also expressed concerns and confusion about the state's handling of the rollout.

"Virginia has far too many doses still not administered, and that’s not the fault of the federal government. If Virginia is not getting its fair share of the national allotment, we must know what is being done to inform Virginia citizens about where we stand as a commonwealth and where lies the accountability that should accompany such simple metrics," the letter continued. "Why are Virginians waiting longer than citizens in other states? Why does it appear that citizens in Chesterfield are having to wait longer than those in other communities? Why would the commonwealth add anyone to an eligibility list knowing there are not enough doses to go around? If the answers to these questions are backed by facts to share with our citizens, then why haven’t they been provided? Again, accountability appears to be lacking."

Virginia has been consistently near the bottom of the federal government's ranking of doses administered.

In his briefing last week, Avula explained some doses were redistributed from one facility to another; others allocated for long-term care facilities were put on hold during outbreaks of the virus; some recipients held doses in reserve out of uncertainty about obtaining a necessary second dose; and there was a lag in reporting about 90,000 doses that had been administered.

The Chesterfield leaders posed additional questions to the governor including the order in which people were deemed eligible for the vaccine.

"At this rate, we are six-plus months from achieving the goal of vaccinating the employees deemed essential for the continuity of government and schools. More importantly, we are saddened and angered that our general public appears to be enduring an even slower process with resulting deaths occurring to the most vulnerable – 90 percent of deaths are occurring among those over age 60, 50 percent over age 80. Yet these populations, appear to be hindered the most in getting vaccinated," the letter continued. "One example is we may be vaccinating inmates per your guidance and prior to our citizens having the opportunity. In case you’re not aware, our jail facility has not had a COVID19 positive case since June of last year and not one death, yet our citizens have endured over 17,000 positive cases and 190 deaths. They must endure endless prayers for the safety of family and close friends, staying isolated away from work, weekly faith services, and even their own families. They’ve seen loved ones suffer greatly. They do not need to see an inmate in our wellsafeguarded facility get in line in front of them."

CBS 6 reached out to the governor's office for a response to the letter. They sent CBS 6 the following statement via email Tuesday afternoon:

"The Governor shares the frustration in Chesterfield—and across Virginia—that the national vaccine supply is currently so limited. The entire Commonwealth, which includes 133 different localities, is currently receiving 105,000 doses per week from the federal government. That's about a third of the doses requested by localities and health systems last week, and nowhere near our capacity to administer shots.

As of today, Virginia has administered about 50 percent of the doses distributed to us. That is due to a few different factors: 1) data entry issues undercounting our progress; 2) allocation to the federal partnership responsible for vaccinating long-term care facilities; and 3) some providers who are continuing to save shots for future use. We have made immense progress in addressing these challenges, and the Governor will update Virginians on next steps during tomorrow's press conference. While we are nearly at our goal of 25k shots per day—more than twice as many as we were giving two weeks ago—we have additional work ahead."

Dr. Danny Avula is scheduled to speak with CBS 6 Problem Solver Melissa Hipolit about the state's vaccination rollout in a report scheduled to air Tuesday night on the CBS 6 News at 11.