Explainer: Why the COVID-19 vaccine distribution is taking longer than expected

Vaccine rollout much slower than expected

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - It’s taking longer than expected to get COVID-19 vaccinations into the arms of people who need them. Not only is it a problem across the country, but also here in Virginia.

With only 19% of the state’s COVID-19 vaccination stockpile in the arms of health care workers and nursing home residents, Virginia’s governor and the state health department are facing a new reality that it’s going to take longer than first thought.

“A lot of this has been supply dependent. We were promised a certain number of doses and we haven’t got quite that many,” said Governor Ralph Northam, (D) Virginia.

Top health officials in Virginia suspect more doses of the vaccine are actually in arms than the number reflects. The Virginia Department of Health says health care providers are having an issue getting vaccination data properly formatted and uploaded.

“We’ve not seen on a nationwide basis and in Virginia, we’ve not seen the up tick as well as I’d like,” said U.S. Senator Mark Warner, (D) Virginia.

Senator Warner says states need help from the federal government. Health departments can’t be expected to cover the costs of vaccine distribution. Governor Northam and Senator Warner are both banking on a new administration in Washington to bring relief.

“We would really like to see all Virginians have access to the vaccination by the summer time. Then we can get our children back in schools, our businesses back up and running and getting back to being as near normal as we can,” said Northam.

The state hopes to receive additional shipments of COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna and Pfizer by the end of this week. That would get the state to about 370,000 doses for phase 1A which includes front line health care workers. Overall, there are about half a million in that group alone.

“We’re going to need a much more aggressive effort,” said Warner.

The hope is the process becomes more efficient as times goes on. Meanwhile, the state health department said a late spring/early summer timetable for the general public to get the shot could be delayed.

For every dose sent to Virginia, there’s a second dose held back in a stockpile. Both approved vaccines require a second dose. That first shipment of the second Pfizer dose arrived in the commonwealth this week.

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