The Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors (BOS) sent a scathing letter on Tuesday to Governor Ralph Northam criticizing the slow COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Virginia.
“Simply put, Virginia’s campaign to vaccinate the masses is totally defective. On this issue, we have run out of patience and tolerance. Our citizens deserve better,” the five supervisors wrote. “Virginia has far too many doses still not administered, and that’s not the fault of the federal government.”
The supervisors noted that they were concerned about potential policies like vaccinating inmates before other community members.
They wrote, “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. What is the accountability standard to quickly reach these populations before they risk death or the continued isolation that they endure more than any other population subset?”
Supervisor Leslie Haley, who is running for the GOP nomination for Virginia attorney general, said in a statement, “The Northam administration has failed at distributing the vaccine during the pandemic. This isn’t partisan – it’s about standing up for Virginians in a time of crisis. We are last in vaccine distribution efficiency in the country, behind Republican and Democrat administrations alike. The vaccine delays are harming our ability to get our kids back in school, our businesses fully opened, and bringing a close to this pandemic. The administration bears the full front of the blame for their failures.”
According to Becker’s Hospital Review, as of Wednesday, Virginia had distributed 51 percent of the 1,172,375 doses it has received from the federal government. The Commonwealth is ranked 37th out of 50 states for percentage of vaccines distributed. That’s up from the last-place ranking reported Tuesday by WTOP, but still far behind top-three states North Dakota, New Mexico, and West Virginia, who, respectively, have distributed 87 percent, 78 percent, and 76 percent of vaccines received.
Health officials blamed the earlier lower numbers on bad reporting of doses distributed, according to The Virginian-Pilot.
In a Wednesday press conference, Governor Ralph Northam said that the goal from a month ago was to distribute 500,000 shots to the most vulnerable people, including healthcare workers. He said, “Today about a month later, more than 520,000 shots have been given in our Commonwealth. It’s important to know that. It means that we are on track,” Northam said.
Northam blamed the Trump administration for creating a supply problem by first telling states to expand how many doses they were giving out or risk getting their allotment curtailed. Then, Northam said, the administration revealed a few days later that the national supply of doses had run out, scaring health departments into stockpiling doses.
Northam said, “That led to a reality that is both too much supply in some places and not enough in others.”
He said working with the new Biden administration has been different. “I’ve spoken with the White House twice in the past week,” he said. “I heard a spirit of bipartisan cooperation.”
Northam said that starting with orders placed on Thursday, “States are going to receive about 16 percent more doses immediately.”
But supply isn’t the only problem that the Chesterfield supervisors are worried about. They’re also concerned with poor vaccine distribution infrastructure. Although the Chesterfield Health District bears the county’s name, it is under the authority of the state. Board Chair James Holland said that means available county resources aren’t being used to help distribute the vaccine.
“We just have observed extensive call times, sometimes it takes two hours, three hours, five hours, emails, systems that have failed and all of this is not on the Governor. Certainly, he is doing the best he can with regards to distributing the limited supply that he has,” Holland told The Virginia Star.
“However, let us work with the government. Give us the legal authority, centralize it so the county can work in tandem with the Chesterfield health district,” Holland said.
He said the county could secure more vaccination sites including at the fairgrounds and local colleges. “We want the legal authority to do that,” Holland said.
Holland, who is a Democrat, said the issue is non-partisan. He didn’t back down from the sharply-worded letter. He said, “Yeah, it was strong, but this is a very serious matter in terms of distributing that vaccine.”
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