CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC) voted to send a letter to Governor Ralph Northam expressing concerns about the rate of COVID-19 vaccinations in the Hampton Roads region.
The 47-member board unanimously approved the letter at its meeting on Jan. 21. The Commission consists of elected and appointed officials from the region’s 17 local governments.
The letter is requesting that Northam immediately help increase the rate of vaccinations within the cities of Hampton Roads, parts of Isle of Wight County, Williamsburg, York, Southampton, Poquoson, James City, Franklin, and Gloucester.
“We are very concerned that the Commonwealth of Virginia currently ranks very low as compared to other states in the per capita rollout of vaccinations,” the letter states.
“Based on input from our localities, and the number of vaccines being made available to our communities, we estimate it would take at least 12 to 16 months for the population of Hampton Roads to be vaccinated. We can all agree that this is not acceptable.”
The letter explains that cities and counties across Hampton Roads have trained staff who can administer the vaccine as well as offer spaces to assist with large-scale vaccinations.
“We are mobilized and ready to move very quickly, but we need your assistance and the support of the Virginia Department of Health to provide our localities the necessary authority to offer this assistance.”
It continues to call on Northam to put agreements in place allowing the region to open clinics while using local staff to administer the vaccine to residents.
10 On Your Side spoke with Andria McClellan, who is chair of the commission, a Norfolk City Councilwoman and candidate for lieutenant governor. She says the letter serves as a direct offer to help.
“What we wanted to do was just say to the governor ‘we’re here to help.’ We’ve got resources and plans we have the ability to help in a big way just reach out and let us be part of the process,” said McClellan. “Collectively, we are all experiencing that same level of frustration and concern where we have constituents who want and need the vaccine and we understand that there is a supply issue, but there’s also a coordination of efforts at the federal, state and local level.”
On Friday, Northam’s office responded with a statement:
“Governor Northam has received the letter and shares the frustration in Hampton Roads — and across Virginia — that the national vaccine supply is currently so limited. There is simply not yet enough vaccine for everyone who is eligible. At the same time, we know many vaccine providers can do a better job administering the doses they do have, including public health districts, hospitals and health systems, and private pharmacies. The Governor’s reply to the letter will emphasize the steps Virginia has been taking to improve the rate at which the doses we have received are actually administered.”
The letter comes around the same time that multiple cities in Hampton Roads announced they would be moving into phase 1b vaccine administration in the upcoming days. Norhtam and Virginia health officials have said there’s just not enough overall vaccine supply coming in to the state (about 110,000 doses per week) and that’s preventing a larger scale rollout at this time. That figure isn’t expected to increase until March.
Earlier this week, Peninsula city managers shared their frustration over the lack of COVID-19 vaccine availability in the region.
In a joint letter issued Monday afternoon, city managers on the Peninsula say they are trying their best to be as patient as they can while the Virginia Department of Health decides the next steps for vaccine rollout in the area.