ICYMI: Northam continues to fumble vaccine distribution as Cox calls for action

Governor Ralph Northam is once again failing to lead the Commonwealth in the middle of a global pandemic, with some of the slowest vaccine distribution in the nation. Reports from Tuesday suggest Virginia was 46th in the nation. The Virginia Mercury reported today that frustrations are boiling over in the medical community as medical systems are struggling to acquire enough doses to vaccinate their employees — yet vaccine distribution has barely reached 20 percent of the total number of vaccines received.

The frustration for those outside large hospital systems has been compounded by the slow rollout of vaccines across the state. As of Tuesday, the state health department reported on its vaccine distribution dashboard that Virginia had received 481,550 doses — a little more than the roughly 480,000 initially expected by the end of December. But so far, it’s only administered 104,083 —  just over 20 percent of the state’s total allocation.

Meanwhile, former House Speaker and 2021 candidate for Governor Kirk Cox called on Governor Northam to take decisive action to speed vaccine distribution, outlining three steps including the introduction of an emergency appropriation to unlock new federal funding for vaccine distribution, expanding private-sector distribution similar to the federal government’s model to long-term care facilities, and expanding eligibility for vaccines as quickly as possible.

“Time and time again throughout this pandemic, this administration failed to lead on some of the most important issues whether it was testing early on, reopening our schools, or ensuring prompt payment of unemployment claims,” said Cox. “We cannot afford another failure when it comes to vaccine distribution. As our case numbers rise, I am calling on Governor Ralph Northam to take decisive action to ensure that Virginia maximizes its vaccine distribution to save lives.” 

Read below for our full release.

Kirk Cox urges Governor Northam to take decisive action to speed vaccine distribution in Virginia

Kirk Cox urges Governor Northam to take decisive action to speed vaccine distribution in Virginia
Former Virginia House of Delegates Speaker, retired teacher, and Republican candidate for Governor Kirk Cox urged Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to take decisive action immediately to speed vaccine distribution in the Commonwealth. Cox called on the Governor to introduce an emergency appropriation to unlock new federal funding for vaccine distribution, to expand private-sector distribution similar to the federal government’s model for long-term care facilities, and to expand eligibility for vaccines as quickly as possible.

“Time and time again throughout this pandemic, this administration failed to lead on some of the most important issues whether it was testing early on, reopening our schools, or ensuring prompt payment of unemployment claims,” said Cox. “We cannot afford another failure when it comes to vaccine distribution. As our case numbers rise, I am calling on Governor Ralph Northam to take decisive action to ensure that Virginia maximizes its vaccine distribution to save lives.” 

As of January 4, Virginia received over 450,000 vaccine doses, but only administered about 90,000 doses — about 20% of the doses received. Virginia also ranks 46th in the nation according to the CDC at vaccine distribution.

Cox added, “Unfortunately the Governor seems more focused on investigating small businesses and stopping families from gathering at important holidays than the actual business of managing the pandemic. We failed at testing, our unemployment system is broken, and now Virginia’s vaccine distribution is among the slowest in the nation. It’s time for this administration to stop passing the buck, blaming reporting errors, and fix it.” 

Cox said Virginia should take the following three steps immediately: (i) adopt an emergency appropriation to unlock $101 million in federal funding immediately, (ii) expand private-sector distribution following the federal government’s model for healthcare workers and for future recipients, and (iii) expand eligibility for vaccine distribution as quickly as possible as long as stockpiles continue to grow.

Under the budget adopted by the General Assembly during the Special Session, all additional federal relief funds must be appropriated through the budget. The new federal relief bill passed before the end of the year included $101 million in vaccine distribution funding for Virginia. That money should be appropriated immediately to ensure there are no vaccine distribution delays.

“It does not look like funding is currently an issue in Virginia, but that is a risk we cannot afford to take,” Cox said. “We should immediately appropriate funding for vaccine distribution to make sure there are no delays related to funding.” 

Cox also said Virginia should expand private-sector distribution following the Federal government’s model. To administer COVID-19 vaccines quickly, the Virginia government should partner with private industry, such as independent and major pharmacies. The Federal government has a similar arrangement for long-term care facilities, but Virginia can use this model for newly eligible recipients to reach more populations.

“Our health care providers are struggling with rising hospitalizations and fatalities which are also rising, and we can relieve them from vaccine distribution by utilizing the private sector,” Cox said. “We’re simply not going to be able to scale this vaccine unless we bring the private sector more into the fold.” 

Cox also said it is crucial Virginia expand eligibility for vaccine distribution as quickly as possible.

“As long as stockpiles continue to grow, then Virginia should expand eligibility for vaccine distribution sooner rather than later,” Cox said.  

He proposed the following groups should be made eligible as quickly as possible:

  • Those 65+ with underlying medical conditions.
  • Essential Public Safety workers including law enforcement and firefighters.
  • Teachers & other public school employees.