RICHMOND, Va. — At the beginning of the vaccine rollout, Virginia ranked near the bottom of states when it comes to distribution. While things have improved, questions remain about why more wasn’t done sooner.
When COVID-19 vaccines began to make their way to the states, Virginians waited for vaccinations. Now, nearly two months later, many are still waiting.
“We can do better. I sense the frustration,” Governor Ralph Northam said.
The state began receiving vaccine doses in mid-December.
Right before the new year, the state health department reported fewer than 55,000 Virginians had received a COVID-19 vaccine. That number represented only about 20% of the total number of doses.
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“A couple of weeks after the program started, I was not satisfied. Still not satisfied,” Northam said.
Republicans in the Commonwealth weren’t satisfied either, calling Virginia’s vaccine rollout a failure.
“The Northam administration’s ability to distribute and administer vaccines has been extremely disappointing,” Republican Delegate Kirk Cox said after the Governor’s January 2021 State of the Commonwealth Address. Cox is a candidate for governor.
At the time, when it came to getting people vaccinated, Virginia still ranked near the bottom among states.
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“It’s really an all hands-on deck approach here in Richmond right now. We’re working around the clock,” Northam said.
According to the Health Department, Virginia has now received about 1.5 million doses. Yet, fewer than 10% of the population has been vaccinated with at least one dose.
Virginia is making progress, now ranking as one of the states with the highest percentage of vaccines administered.
Northam wants to see at least 50,000 doses a day going into arms.
“We’ve brought in the National Guard,” Northam said. “I brought in kind of a field general to oversee the vaccination program in Dr. Danny Avula. So, we’re making good progress.”
The governor wants everyone vaccinated by mid-summer, but there’s currently no plan to mandate them.
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“I won’t be satisfied until all Virginians who choose to get a vaccination are able to receive those,” Northam said.
He says vaccinations are the light at the end of a long dark tunnel. That tunnel included closing schools last March, forcing thousands of families and educators into learning the unknown.
Nearly one year later, students are still not back full-time. However, last Friday, Northam announced that schools must submit their in-person learning options by mid-March.
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In a recent survey of the most and least popular governors in America, Ralph Northam ranked 24th.
In late April, his approval rating hit 59%. By October, the rating had fallen 10-points.
Some lawmakers say that the executive orders that are handed out give one person too much power. Northam sees it another way.
“I take these decisions very seriously. but it’s important to have someone that’s in charge. I think people are frustrated because they’ve seen this COVID-19 go on now for 10 months. What I have tried to do is focus on the health and well-being of Virginians. I’ve followed the science certainly as a physician,” Northam said.
Ralph Northam is the nation’s only doctor Governor.