RICHMOND, Va. — Gov. Ralph Northam today held a press conference responding to Virginia's pathetic performance administering doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in recent weeks.
Becker's Hospital Review Monday ranked states by percentage of COVID-19 vaccines administered versus those received. North Dakota placed first overall, having already administered 87 percent of doses received. Health officials nationwide have maintained an average administration of about 54 percent.
Virginia ranked last out of all 50 states, barely over 40 percent. Two days later, the commonwealth finally cleared the half-century mark, administering 50 percent of received doses and feebly climbing to 37th in the nation.
Neighboring West Virginia ranks top three, using its National Guard as a resource to administer vaccines. Meanwhile, Virginia trotted a substantial tranche of its National Guard to the U.S. Capitol. As of today, 15,000 troops remain in Washington, D.C., and the Army this morning confirmed thousands will stay at least until mid-March.
When asked point-blank if Virginia health officials know where the unadministered half of its already insubstantial shipment of vaccines from the Federal government are located and if any had gone to waste, Northam admitted he just hasn't done enough.
"I am responsible. The criticism is fair," Northam said. "I understand your frustration, and I know you're out of patience. I am as well."
Dr. Danny Avula, director of the Richmond City and Henrico County health departments, assured Virginians the doses weren't lost.
"In the big picture, we absolutely know where the doses are," Avula said this afternoon. "We look at a 500,000-dose gap. The largest chunk of those is second doses that have been delivered to Virginia and are ready to be administered, but we are waiting for those appointments."
Neither Avula nor Northam were able to articulate why virtually every other state in the U.S. has been able to successfully administer its second doses in a timely enough manner to keep its numerator hovering just under its denominator.
"I feel the frustration out there," Northam said. "As a medical provider, I feel the urgency. At the end of the day, as the governor of Virginia, I am responsible."
Northam also insinuated he did not support expanding Phase 1b to patients over the age of 65, citing the shortage of doses Virginia has received thus far, whereas the original slate denoted those over 75.
Northam continuously stressed to the public to "allow the most vulnerable to be vaccinated first." However, in Pittsylvania County and Danville, reports still flood in of adults over 65 with urgent medical conditions being denied or waitlisted while healthy young adults and even teenagers, including Averett students and the Danville City Council, have already received their course.