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Northam asks HHS to supply vaccines for Virginia's federal essential workers

Northam, along with Maryland's governor and DC's mayor, want to cover about 30,000 "critical personnel" identified by the federal Office of Personnel Management.

RICHMOND, Va. — On Wednesday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, along with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, asked the federal government to supply vaccines and vaccination sites for federal essential workers.

A letter written to the US Department of Health and Human Services asked for more shots specifically designated for federal civilian employees, defense contractors, and transportation workers who are necessary to keep the United States government running.

"The District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia simply do not have the resources available to support these priority vaccinations, due to the additional burden on local resources that this mission would require—especially when considering the amount of vaccine each state receives," the leaders wrote. 

The ask covers about 30,000 "critical personnel" identified by the federal Office of Personnel Management.

"This allocation should come from federal supply and should not be taken from the supply of DC, Maryland, or Virginia," the letter said.

Northam’s request comes as industrial employers see a surge in COVID-19 cases. Newport News Shipbuilding reported cases have doubled over the last six weeks.

Peter Shaw, a professor of economics at Tidewater Community College, said vaccinating shipyard employees is critical.  

“We need a healthy labor force there to maintain that national defense,” said Shaw. “Secondly, having all those employees healthy and employed, they’re earning paychecks, paychecks are being spent in our economy because the shipyard is state’s largest industrial employer.”

The Newport News shipyard began vaccinating employees last week. So far, 338 employees have received the vaccine.

Shaw agrees with Northam, vaccination efforts among those workers must speed up.

“That’s not enough,” said Shaw. “If you’re only doing 300 doses a week, given they’ve got 26,000 employees…to inoculate all of them would take a good year and a half.”

By Thursday morning, the federal government had not publicly responded to the request.