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Hampton Roads cities last to enter Phase 1B as part of Virginia COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Vaccine supply, the number of Hampton Roads healthcare workers and a lack of coordination were all named as factors in the region's slower rollout.

HAMPTON, Va. — The Hampton and Peninsula Health Districts started Phase 1B of COVID-19 vaccinations Friday. Norfolk and Virginia Beach officially start on Monday. Portsmouth, on Tuesday. 

They're the final cities and health departments to begin the second phase of COVID-19 vaccinations in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“It’s a big question that we have: was it an issue of access to actual vaccines or was it an issue of the logistics piece of the puzzle," said Andria McClellan, chair of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission.

McClellan sent a letter to Governor Ralph Northam's office Thursday with concerns about the rate of vaccinations in Hampton Roads, specifically. 

“This vaccination effort is a marathon, not a sprint, but we definitely lost the 100-yard dash," she said. "We are getting the pressure from our residents as they're asking: Why is this not happening faster? Why are we lagging behind?"

RELATED: Hampton Roads Planning District Commission requests Northam's help increasing rate of vaccinations

The City of Hampton started giving vaccine doses to city employees - such as teachers - at the Hampton Roads Convention Center across from the Hampton Coliseum on Friday.

In the Peninsula Health District, vaccines were also provided on the Christopher Newport University campus and at the Colonial Williamsburg Visitors Center.

“For essential workers that fall within the city, the localities wanted to make sure they got vaccinated as soon as possible," Taylor La Dieu explained.

La Dieu is a COVID-19 vaccine site lead for the Peninsula Health District.

Next week, the Hampton and Peninsula Health Districts will start scheduling vaccine appointments for people over 75 years old. 

Those appointments will likely start in February. You can register on the health district websites.

La Dieu, when asked about Hampton Roads cities being the last to reach Phase 1B, said local health departments decided to spend more time on the first phase of the rollout for healthcare workers.

“I just think it’s all about supply and who has the resources, but also making sure we’re taking our time," La Dieu said. "The Peninsula has a lot of healthcare providers, and we want to make sure that’s who we’re focusing on."

When asked why Hampton Roads health departments were the last to move into Phase 1B, a Virginia Department of Health spokesperson for the region said the VDH map would be updated soon, then said he'd check to see if the "question is accurate," and then referred the question to a Portsmouth Health Department official. 

By Tuesday, all Hampton Roads cities will officially be participating in Phase 1B, providing vaccine doses to frontline essential workers, people over 65 years of age, and other groups.