Short supply of vaccine forces rural health districts in Virginia to stay patient and get creative

COVID-19 Vaccine

ISLE OF WIGHT COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — If there’s a man at the tip of the sword for COVID-19 distribution in the Western Tidewater Health District, it’s Emergency Manager Will Drewery.

Drewery says there is a significant vaccine supply issue from the state.

“As far as putting vaccines in arms, we are doing well. We are getting the doses we receive from the state allocation, and we get them out the same week we receive them,” he said.

Thanks to Drewery, who helped broker a deal with Bon Secours and Sentara Healthcare, the mostly rural health district is getting many more than the 900 doses allocated last week from the state.

“We delivered 2,700 doses districtwide last week, which is actually 300% more vaccine than what we received from the state allocation,” he said. 

Does he feel they health district is getting its fair share of the vaccine?

“I know we need more. I know we have more infrastructure to give what we have been given,” he said. 

The priority is to give vaccine to those 65 and holder, and due to the large rural population, all vaccinations are done only by appointment. Drewery’s health district is 1,500 square miles of mostly rural country.

The Western Tidewater Health District includes Suffolk, Southampton and Isle of Wight counties and Franklin.

“We do have an appointment schedule. We are very meticulous about doses from vials of vaccine to be opened, so we are not wasting any. We get down to the very end, and everyone still there gets the end of one or two vials that are left.” 

What concerns Drewery, due to vaccine shortage, is the cancellation of appointments.

“We had to cancel first dose appointments … in Suffolk and Smithfield.” 

10 On Your Side asked him what conversations he has had with health authorities in Richmond.

“We are saying ‘Look we need more doses in Western Tidewater. Some of our localities have reached out and said our health department is outperforming. They are up to the task to get the job done we just need vaccines to get shots in arms,'” he said.

For now, Drewery is focusing exclusively on those 65 and older.

“Because we know they are the most vulnerable, and quite frankly, bluntly they are the ones dying from the disease,” he said. 

They need vaccine doses, and Drewery is the tip of the sword for complaints like those heard in the grocery store and around town. Questions like, where is the vaccine? Am I going to get it? When am I going to get it? 

“We live here, we work here, we are all having to answer these questions on an hour-by-hour if not minute-by-minute basis… They think we are holding it back, and you have to explain it to them… We aren’t getting it… I know the public is frustrated. I’m frustrated, too. I think we all are, and we will all get through this together. Patience is what will win this,” he said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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