Virginia begins plans to vaccinate millions & faces rollout issues

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Kyle Diederich, Staff Writer

Health Care workers stand in line as they await vaccines at the Fairfax County Government Center

 

The commonwealth of Virginia has begun its rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. As many receive their vaccines, many more are left in the dark,  unsure of when they can receive their dosages of the potentially life-saving shot. 

 

Currently, Virginians 65 and older and frontline workers are eligible to schedule appointments for their shots. Federal workers and a large number of teachers have also become eligible for the shots and have been receiving their dose for the last few weeks. 

 

Governor Northam has announced plans stating, “Expect weekly increase in dosages, a launch of a centralized sign up procedure via phone and the internet, and a call for Virginia hospitals to release extra doses they were holding onto for second shots.” As of now, there is no confirmed plan or date for when regular population adults and children can receive the highly sought after vaccine. On February 2, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said that he expects a national vaccination “open season” to begin in April, meaning “virtually everybody and anybody in any category could start to get vaccinated.”

 

However, rollout has not been easy and many Virginians and doctors are becoming increasingly angry at the state for its lackluster performance as they attempt to distribute vaccines. Thousands  have made calls, waiting on phone queues of 400 or more people, only to find out all appointments have been taken up and no reservations can be made. 

 

Which is exactly what happened to one local resident, Janette Gasaway, who couldn’t reserve an appointment for her 89 year old mother. She recently testified to the  D.C. City Council about the matter. Of the eligible residents that are lucky enough to secure appointments, celebrations are being short lived as both Virginia and Maryland have continuously scheduled appointments and then abruptly canceled, leaving thousands frustrated and looking for answers. 

 

University of Maryland public health professor Donald Milton argues, “There should have been a plan . . . along with funding to hire and train staff starting from last summer.” He claims Maryland and Virginia are entirely to blame for the vaccine frenzy. He also stated that aside from the need to have a plan much earlier, residents should have been able to register for vaccinations last summer. 

 

At the start of vaccine distribution, Virginia was ranked 49th in the nation. Since then, new protocols and reworkings of the original plan have allowed the state to rise up the ladder, far away from its previous position. Virginia’s neighbor West Virginia is being praised for their effective response, ranking third in the nation. A combination of cooperation across multiple levels of government and early preparation placed them in a better situation than the commonwealth.

 

The increase of doses the state has received also caused major problems. Counties have begun to argue over who and where the vaccines should be going. In a meeting that included top officials, governors and Mike Pence, a statement was made saying that the Trump administration would be releasing its stockpile of reserved vaccines. They also announced that governors should be vaccinating anyone over 65. After the announcements Northam quickly expanded eligibility as the state already had started vaccinating people over 65. This completely derailed the state’s distribution. Days later, reports came out that the federal reserve of vaccines was not what the state expected and now thousands of Virginians were signing up for appointments for vaccines that didn’t exist.  

 

As thousands of people 65 and older are still without a vaccine, some are starting to cast blame on counties who are canceling their appointments but still vaccinating teachers and essential workers who are not 65 and older. Fairfax County Public Schools is among just one of the many counties quickly vaccinating all their teachers as they plan to return to school in-person on March 2nd. Despite this, many essential workers and teachers have been subject to cancelations as well.  Many elderly residents are still frustrated as they feel they are being overlooked. 

 

Vaccine rollout both nation and statewide is a day by day process, and as issues continue to rise so do resolutions, among the many issues that have risen in Virginia’s rollout we are still pushing forward for a COVID free future. 

 

If you are 65 and older or an essential worker you can find any and all information about your county’s local health office by searching your counties name, followed by “Health office”. Phone numbers and online bookings should be available on the individual websites. Additionally, you can also call or search up local hospitals and known distribution centers for a more direct way of reserving an appointment. The Fairfax County Health Office is linked here.  General information about the vaccine can be found here