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.