PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Virginians rejoiced Thursday when Gov. Ralph Northam in a live news conference announced, depending on your health district, Virginians 65 and older and anyone with comorbidities such as high blood pressure and diabetes can get in line for coronavirus vaccines in phase 1b. As of Friday afternoon, a map showed Hampton Roads remains in phase 1a.
While medical professionals and older Americans in nursing homes received the vaccine under phase 1a, phase 1b now includes thousands more, including people in their 30s with chronic disease. This change is of particular interest for African Americans who have a higher risk for certain chronic diseases that have been linked to severe and fatal cases of COVID-19.
“This is particularly why members of the African American community should get the vaccine, because they are at greater risk,” said Dr. Mike Dacey, president and chief operating officer of Riverside Health System.
But there’s a big question on where additional vaccines will come from. In a matter of days, Riverside’s vaccine freezers could be empty.
“We have received 16,000 doses over the last few weeks. We have used 80% of that, in fact, by next week, will have used 100 percent of that [inventory].”
Dacey added the health system, which serves patients from Hampton, Newport News, Tappahannock, the Eastern Shore and other areas has no word on when additional vaccines could arrive.
Riverside has 700 providers who are poised to innoculate hundreds of thousands of people who would qualify under phase 1b.
Until Riverside’s ship comes in with more vaccines, Dacey recommends patients download the MyChart software, which will help in collecting health history and scheduling vaccinations.
“We now have the plans in place to be able to vaccinate up to 10,000 people a week at Riverside but we need the vaccine.”
Riverside and the state health department are still working on plans for mass vaccinations.
Until then, Dacey is calling on residents to put pressure on the state to release vaccines for people on the Virginia Peninsula. He’s also hopeful the federal government will soon do a better job of coordinating with states on the rollout.