VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A low supply of vaccine doses are limiting cities and local health departments from speeding up the vaccine process. Virginia Beach projects it could take close to two years to vaccinate everyone eligible unless the supply increases.
The Virginia Beach Health District moved into Phase 1B on Monday, providing vaccine doses to essential workers and at-risk adults at the Virginia Beach Convention Center.
New information presented in a "Mass Vaccination Brief" from City Manager Patrick Duhaney to Mayor Bobby Dyer and City Council shows the limitations of the current allotment.
Virginia Beach currently projects to receive about 5,800 doses of the vaccine from the Virginia Department of Health each week.
The city calculated that it would need about 595,000 doses to fully vaccinate 297,500 Virginia Beach residents that would be eligible and able to receive the vaccine, according to a city spokesperson.
At the current rate of 5,800 doses per week, it would take Virginia Beach 103 weeks - or nearly two years - to provide all these doses.
“We feel strongly that we can do more, but we will need more vaccine to get there," said Dr. Demetria Lindsay, director of the Virginia Beach Health District. "Our capacity and our speed are limited by the availability of vaccine."
Vaccine supply should, and likely will, increase with additional production and additional vaccine types becoming available. However, Virginia Beach leaders said that's not expected to happen soon.
“We hope that sometime in the future that supply will increase but for the foreseeable future, we don’t anticipate an increase.”
In the brief shared by the city manager, Virginia Beach reports "vaccine availability after the current week does not appear promising and may even be less than what we’ve received previously."
According to the brief, "vaccine availability isn’t expected to increase until late February or early March" and "vaccine availability and vaccinators continue to be the limiting factors to ramp up operations."
Virginia Beach reports it could provide 300 vaccine doses per hour at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, which would give the city the capacity to provide 12,000 doses in one week of five 8-hour shifts, or much more with expanded operating hours.
Getting more doses isn't the only challenge. Once that happens, cities and local health departments will need more trained vaccinators to give the shots.
The VA Senate just unanimously approved emergency legislation that would allow EMTs and local healthcare providers to volunteer as vaccinators. Delegates should review the bill this week.
As for administering the vaccine, the Virginia Senate just approved emergency legislation that would allow EMTs and local healthcare providers to volunteer as vaccinators. The House of Delegates should review the bill this week.
“If we had more of our local folks act as vaccinators, the public health folks could then be doing more testing," said Andria McClellan, Chair of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, when talking about the bill.
Virginia Beach is giving out about 9,000 doses this week thanks to an extra allotment from Sentara Healthcare, a city spokesperson said.