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Doctor's Note: COVID-19 Vaccination

Everyday, the number one question I hear from constituents is “when will my family and I be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?” It’s often followed by “how and where can I help?”

It’s undeniable that there was a missed opportunity in planning for the rollout of vaccines in Virginia. Virginia is ranked 50th in the nation for getting vaccines into arms. Why? Because the system, as it exists today, is cumbersome, understaffed and littered with inefficiencies. For example, the data system both to connect people who need the vaccine and the system that records a patient receiving the vaccine is slow so we rarely ever have real time numbers. Dispersal of the vaccine is equally cumbersome and patients eligible are left scrambling to make calls to their doctors and pharmacies to track down an available supply.

Over the past three weeks, I’ve taken an in-depth look into what the challenges are, how we can fix them, and how we can maintain the fix going forward so we can together succeed in putting COVID-19 behind us. Virginia has several opportunities.

There aren’t enough people to administer vaccines.

Solution: I am carrying legislation to unleash our healthcare workforce. With this legislation, every licensed qualified healthcare professional or recently retired healthcare professional in Virginia can participate in an abbreviated training process and begin volunteering to inoculate Virginians. This includes, but is not limited to, medical and nursing students, physicians, dentists, nurses, dental hygienists, and paramedics.

We need sites where we can vaccinate large numbers of people.

Solution: My legislation will remove bureaucratic obstacles and make it easier for entities to volunteer their open areas to be used as vaccination sites. For example, that means places like fire departments, rescue squads, churches, community colleges, etc. can register with the Virginia Department of Health to offer their space as places where people can go to be vaccinated.

The vaccine data is delayed and communication is subpar.

Solution: We have a robust and highly capable higher education system in Virginia that has the ability to process and analyze data. Virginia needs to leverage this available technical assistance to overcome obstacles in processing the data which counts the number of vaccines administered and the people who have signed up to receive the vaccine. Ideally, I’d like to see that once a person has signed up with their local health department, a text message is sent periodically alerting them of when they can anticipate receiving the vaccine. That would alleviate a tremendous amount of anxiety Virginians are experiencing right now.

The Virginia Department of Health and the Senate have been really receptive to these ideas. As of today, over 50 members of the legislature (both Republicans and Democrats) have signed on to be co-patrons of my bill including every state Senator. As soon as the Governor signs the bill, it will immediately go into effect.

There is light at the end of the tunnel. We expect more vaccines to hit the market in about two weeks as the federal government works to unleash the volume that is available. With a fast workforce and large vaccination centers running, we can keep this rolling nonstop until we get everyone vaccinated.

Virginians are waiting. This bill went through the Senate with lightning speed. It’s time our House of Delegates does the same. Email your Delegate and ask that they vote yes on SB 1445 so we can get it to the Governor as soon as possible.

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