Va. vaccine coordinator: Availability improving, but ‘still nowhere near where we need to be’

Northern Virginia residents continue to be concerned about getting access to the coronavirus vaccine, but health officials stress the process is improving.

They said the state’s ability to distribute and track the vaccines is getting better compared to earlier in January, but the top problem continues to be access to doses.

In a virtual forum on Saturday morning, Virginia Sen. Barbara Favola and Delegate Kathleen Murphy invited Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu, Director of Health for Fairfax County and Dr. Danny Avula, the state’s vaccine coordinator, to give an update.

Avula said he is confident the state is now able to vaccinate at a high scale, and that more doses are coming soon.

“The White House said yesterday we are going to get increased allocations by about 16% so that’s encouraging. It’s still nowhere near where we need to be,” Avula said.

Avula said all Virginians should recognize that everyone who wants to get vaccinated will be, but it will take several weeks. The state is still prioritizing older residents and health care workers.

Avula also said the state is doing a better job at allocating the doses it has and preventing waste.

In some cases, that means using second dose inventory as first shots. As a result, the state is at 758,000 doses delivered, a jump of about 60,000 doses since yesterday.

In early January, Avula said a lag between the delivery of doses and the subsequent data entry was causing an administrative problem. That seems to be improving.

“We really have tightened up where those doses are going and gotten clarity on where our inventory is,” he said.

Fairfax County is currently vaccinating residents in groups 1a and 1b, which includes adults 65 and older, teachers, those living in homeless shelters and health care workers.

Addo-Ayensu urged those trying to make appointments to continue to be patient. She said limited supply will make it difficult for county residents to make appointments online.

Those who do not speak English or who do not have internet access should call the county hotline (703-246-2479) for help with appointments.

Addo-Ayensu said it could still be several weeks before residents are able to make an appointment due to limited supply, not an issue with the distribution process.

So far, there are currently over 160,000 eligible people in the county’s queue waiting for a slot with only 13,600 doses delivered to the county weekly. Virginia receives 105,000 doses each week.

Some residents said they were concerned about the availability of second doses, but Addo-Ayensu said they’re already accounted for.

“We don’t have to request for second doses, they’ve been coming automatically so when you receive your vaccine, you’ll receive a card telling you when your second vaccine is due,” she said.

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