Saying “I understand” the frustrations of Virginians over the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Ralph Northam on Wednesday outlined how the state planned to improve distribution and let residents know more clearly where they stand in line to get a shot.
He also said that a new executive order to be issued Thursday would extend current safety regulations through the end of February.
Northam said the rollout problems in Virginia were a matter of “supply and logistics,” adding, “People can only get shots if there are shots to give.”
“I know you’re frustrated and out of patience, and I understand it,” Northam said, later adding, “At the end of the day, I, as governor of Virginia, am responsible.”
After a phone call Tuesday with his fellow governors and the White House, Northam said he had two pieces of good news: States will get 16% more doses immediately, starting with the order they will place Thursday; second, that increase is locked in, meaning states can plan for a month rather than week to week.
Northam said that on the call, he heard a commitment at the national level “I haven’t heard since the beginning of the pandemic.”
He also said there was a feeling of bipartisan cooperation among states; “I can’t tell you how relieved I was,” Northam said.
Earlier this month, outgoing U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar directed states to increase eligibility for vaccines to all people over age 65, or else they’d lose out on an increase in allocations, Northam said. Virginia complied, and two days later, Northam said, it turned out there were no more doses to give anyway.
He reiterated the goal that all Americans who want to be vaccinated should be able to get one by the end of summer.
“That’s our country’s goal; that’s Virginia’s goal, and we are committed,” Northam said.
Dr. Mike McDermott, CEO of Mary Washington Hospital, echoed Northam’s sentiments about a “lack of transparency” from the previous administration, and said his clinic, which expects to give out 8,000 shots of the vaccine this week, is capable of expanding to 2,000 shots a day.
“We have built the engine,” McDermott said. “We just need the fuel.”
“You deserve to know what’s going on and what happens next,” Northam said, and toward that end, he unveiled a new dashboard to let Virginians know on one website how many people have been vaccinated, how many doses of vaccine have been distributed and where the people and vaccines are located.
He said he has also directed the Virginia Department of Health to set up a single place for all Virginians to call for information on when they can sign up.
“I take this seriously, because I know people just want answers,” even if they have to wait for a vaccine, Northam said. “I hear you, and we’re getting this fixed.”
He also added that more Virginians have been vaccinated against COVID-19 than had contracted it.
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