Governor’s Spox Deflects Blame for Vaccine Rollout

by Kerry Dougherty

Uh-oh. Seems Virginia’s governor and his staff are a bit touchy about the commonwealth’s desultory COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

They ought to be apologizing.

As the rest of the country manages to open 24/7 vaccine centers, the Old Dominion — the only state with a medical doctor in the Governor’s Mansion — has fallen to 48th in the rate of vaccine use. A week ago, we were 38th.

This is especially worrisome because, according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch, the feds will be releasing future batches of the vaccine based on how quickly the states use the ones they have.

Lucky us.

Northam and his minions can’t blame this on Donald Trump, either. States are in charge  of deciding how the vaccine will be administered and Virginia’s total lack of preparation is embarrassing.

When the Mayor of Virginia Beach finally penned a letter to Northam on Wednesday, he pointed out the many problems the city encountered trying to get doses.

Bobby Dyer described the vaccination program so far as, “frustrating and disappointing”:

Two days later, Dyer had a reply in the form of a snarky three-paragraph email from Clark Mercer, Northam’s chief of staff.

Northam’s spokesman sidestepped the vaccine issue and instead tried to blame State Sen. Bill DeSteph of Virginia Beach for lousy communication between Richmond and the largest city in the commonwealth.


That’s the best the governor’s mouthpiece can do when the commonwealth’s largest city is experiencing a crisis over a lack of vaccines?

Democrats are clearly smarting over a suit DeSteph recently brought against state Democratic Party leaders who had decreed that members of the public could not meet in person with lawmakers during the 2021 session, due to COVID. Once they got to federal court, party leaders agreed to allow small groups of citizens to meet in a designated space with their representatives.

Oh, and DeSteph did not say COVID was no worse than the flu. He pointed out how few people have died of the flu during the pandemic. A curious phenomenon many have noticed.

“Other than not wearing a tie, what has our Dr. Governor done to help the situation?” DeSteph asked when I spoke with him Sunday night and read Mercer’s email to him. “We are the 48th state for getting the vaccines into the arms of our citizens.

“It is childish accusations like this that have deflected his responsibility.

“During the course of this, he (Northam) has blamed the president, our hospitals, our cities. All of the other states have the same president, they have hospitals and they have cities and they are running laps around us.”

When I spoke with the mayor on Sunday, Dyer said he wrote his letter in hopes of provoking a response from the governor. The response he got was not what he expected.

“Do you know how distressing it is to hear from people in North Carolina getting their vaccinations when people in Virginia Beach cannot?” Dyer asked. “The last thing we need, in my opinion, is to emulate the bureaucratic malpractice of New York and California in how we handle this virus.

“It’s disgraceful.”

When I asked Dyer for his reaction to Mercer’s snide email, Dyer simply said:

“Let’s not politicize the vaccine. Let’s make people healthy.”

Too late.

This column is republished with permission from Kerry: Unemployed & Unedited.

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36 responses to “Governor’s Spox Deflects Blame for Vaccine Rollout”

    1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

      I was looking at this

      November 12 — Post Election… where does it say, “and then the States will…”?

      To maximize access to COVID-19 vaccines for all Americans, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today announced the U.S. government’s partnerships with large chain pharmacies and networks that represent independent pharmacies and regional chains. Through the partnership with pharmacy chains, this program covers approximately 60 percent of pharmacies throughout the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Through the partnerships with network administrators, independent pharmacies and regional chains will also be part of the federal pharmacy program, further increasing access to vaccine across the country—particularly in traditionally underserved areas.

      “Ensuring access and affordability of the COVID-19 vaccine for all Americans is a top priority for the Trump Administration,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “We are leveraging the existing private sector infrastructure to get safe and effective vaccines supported by Operation Warp Speed into communities and into arms as quickly as possible with no out-of-pocket costs. The vast majority of Americans live within five miles of a pharmacy, and our new agreement with pharmacy partners across America is a critical step toward making sure all Americans have access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines when they are available.”

  1. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Only 212 people out of 450,000 in Virginia Beach have been fully vaccinated. In Highland County only 2 people have been fully vaccinated. Whites have the most vaccinations by a mile. Women outnumber men 2 to 1 in vaccinations. Most of the shots have been given to people under the age of 60. All sorts of vial things can be found here:

    1. Baconator with extra cheese Avatar
      Baconator with extra cheese

      No one can tell what race is getting the vaccine. If you looks at the VDH Vaccine Demographics out of 283,342 people vaccinated race was not reported for 174,816 people…. yet sex was not reported only 9,724…
      One really should question why isn’t race being reported?
      Dr. Governor told us Equitable distribution was very important… yet his administration is not providing data.
      Why not Dr. Governor?

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    In Fredericksburg, they have opened the vaccinations to the 1B group – essential workers and those 75 and over. Some vague wording about those 65 with “some conditions” – soon.

    On the Dashboard, it shows more than a thousand have been vaccinated for Fredericksburg so far.

    Not clear if the CDC is interfacing directly with hospitals and pharmacies or if it all goes through the Gov who then coordinates distribution.

    I suspect the GOv is not in that loop but perhaps someone knows for sure.

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      Hasn’t the 1b group been extended to people over 65 and those between 16-65 who have a significant medical condition? Fairfax County advised residents in those classifications to start signing up today, January 18. The online gateway is not working.

  3. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    If not keeping up with the count is because they are too busy actually putting shots in arms, that may be forgivable. One can only hope. And wait, of course — only recourse for most of us is wait until they get the supply out to pharmacies, family practices, docs in boxes, etc. Maybe after the Assembly I could go spend a day in line….

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      The folks over 75 are getting appointments. The folks under 65 are not yet.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      It’s starting to happen in Fredericksburg for others besides the health care professionals (I hope that means the private practice folks also).

      I still don’t understand how the vaccine pipeline works and whether the Gov actually has much control over it. I see VDH doing the health care workers but it’s the Hospital now doing the essential workers and over 75 group. Someone said CVS/Walgreens has been doing the nursing homes.

      Is there one pipeline feeding all these vaccine providers locally or is it the State that is receiving the vaccines then distributing them across the state?

  4. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    That chart hasn’t looked that good in a while, although it merely says the US has plateaued at a high level….and note Virginia is still a bit reddish.

    And on that table I check all the time, Virginia’s deaths per capita is now firmly in the bottom 10, with only 7 states and Puerto Rico doing better. This is what I do while waiting for my shot…..

  5. Baconator with extra cheese Avatar
    Baconator with extra cheese

    Good Commentary in the Virginia Mercury today discussing how WV is leading the charge in vaccinating nursing homes while Dr. Governor’s Commonwealth struggles.

    1. idiocracy Avatar

      WV? The WV that the Virginia elite makes fun of? THAT WV?

  6. djrippert Avatar

    Northam failed with the COVID testing. Northam failed with the distribution of unemployment checks. Northam is failing in getting the vaccine out. Even putting aside the blackface / Coonman / infanticide / maskless on the boardwalk foibles … Northam is a failure.

    People will die who would have otherwise lived due to Northam’s incompetence.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Quite a bit of WVA is small hamlets with one clinic and everyone knows each other and transporation is part of the clinic infrastructure.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      Coonman Bad! Organeman… oops…

      1. djrippert Avatar

        I don’t claim Northam is morally deficient (give or take the yearbook and his blatant lies about that yearbook), but I do believe he is demonstrably incompetent. At this point his incompetence will start costing people their lives. Somewhere in Virginia is a recently retired military officer with decades of experience in life-or-death logistics. Northam needs to fins that officer and hire him or her to get the state through this rollout.

  7. Baconator with extra cheese Avatar
    Baconator with extra cheese

    Yup…. those guys up on the plateau.

  8. Emilio Jaksetic Avatar
    Emilio Jaksetic

    The Virginia Mercury has an interesting commentary on Governor Northam’s lackluster performance on COVID vaccinations, and its potential for voter discontent in November.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Isn’t this an easy dodge for the Dems? ” I’m not Northam and I would have never done that” ?


      I think Cox needs more than that.

      When he goes to NoVa, he’ll need to NOT SAY: “elect me and we’ll turn Virginia back over to the Republicans to run”. don’t think that’s gonna fly. What message should he send beyond “Northam was bad and I will be better”?

      The GOP has this continuing problem. They are more inclined to lecture people how Virginia SHOULD be governed rather than listening to voters and what they think.

      When I see the GOP actually listening to voters again, I’ll think about voting for them again.

  9. Bill O'Keefe Avatar
    Bill O’Keefe

    New Jersey and Virginia have about equal populations. However as of January 14 according to CBS News New Jersey has administered 40% of its vaccines while Virginia only 24%. CBS News also stated that Georgia, California, and Virginia were further behind than all other states. Competence?

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Some of it is like Virginia’s Unemployment Agency which is said to be obsolete technology-wise and overwhelmed staff-wise and Northam inherited it and has not fixed it.

      VDH is similar in some respects. It is not as modern and streamlined as it should be – but it was that way when Northam arrived and who knew that a pandemic was coming along that would overwhelm agencies that were already in need of repair?

      I’m not an “apologist” for Northam, contrary to some who think that.

      Let me give an example that almost no one beyond the transportation world knows and that is Smart Scale which has revolutionized the way Virginia does transportation projects. It’s almost completely done away with politically/developer influence roads. There is now an objective process with hard critera that determines which ones get funded and which ones get dumped.

      Also, PPTA congestion tolling. NOt popular but success not only in managing rush hour congestion in urban areas but coming up with the private sector money to build new tunnels for tidewater.

      It’s sorta like the economy and the POTUS. No POTUS really is responsible for the economy that they inherit from the prior POTUS.

      1. Bill O'Keefe Avatar
        Bill O’Keefe

        This not Northam’s first year and equating the economy’s performance to the performance in distributing and administering the vaccine is nonsense. The Governor and his health appointees have had the better part of the year to plan, evaluate, test, and revise its system. The bureaucratic incompetence is costing lives.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          Here’s another way to look at it, you probably won’t agree.

          If at the beginning of Northams term, he was asked if he thought it was a priority to reorganize VDH and the Unemployment Agency, what would he have said – realistically knowing nothing of the impending pandemic?

          After the pandemic hit, did he really have a realistic opportunity to reform with the agencies already overwhelmed and on the edge of failure anyhow?

          1. Bill O'Keefe Avatar
            Bill O’Keefe

            Other states did. Why is New Jersey so much better than Virginia? Why are we near the bottom?

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            We are near the bottom because we have some state agencies that are way overdue for reform and no govt chose to do it until it became too late. VDH would be a gnat on a dogs butt politically if the pandemic never happened.

            VDOT, OTOH, went through several reforms starting with George Allen and it is now considered one of the better DOTs in the country.

            In the for what it is worth column, Northam is no reformer… he’s a “take over the healm and steady as you go” guy but he ran into a helluva storm….

            I still think most Virginians are okay with him… and that Cox is beating a dead horse if he wants to run for Guv by blaming Northam… Cox better not have many skeltons of his own… 😉

          3. “I still think most Virginians are okay with [Northam]… ”


            I wonder what you base that on. Perhaps you should consider seeing a shaman to have your dream analyzed. 😉

            If I were Cox, I might consider campaigning on the whether the last couple of Democratic governors and administrations have held over the same old Democratic appointees and administrators who have gotten us into this mess.

          4. LarrytheG Avatar

            some polls, not recent showed decent support. Most folks accept the idea that the pandemic is not the fault of Northam… and while he was no hero – no goat either.

            Cox running against Dems? Yep. He’s got a voting record himself, no?

      2. Larry, Smart Scale has nothing to do with the vaccine and VDH failures. And it’s not a success by any measure. It took money from counties that they used to get for secondary road maintenance that wouldn’t be on VDOT radar for years, and let the counties do what was needed to keep their roads functional. Now, there’s almost no money to the rural counties while mega million projects that go on for years get funded in Hampton Roads and NoVa in the name of Smart Scale. The only similarity to VDH and vaccine is the failure to look at the big picture, plan ahead, and deal with incompetence in their ranks–usually at the upper, politically protected levels.

  10. Nancy,
    Your post (second in this thread) asks, “November 12 — Post Election… where does it say, ‘and then the States will…’? ”

    Perhaps you overlooked the following (from the document you cited and complained about. check under “November” in the timeline):

    “HHS will allocate these government-owned doses equitably on a weekly basis to state and territorial health departments which, in turn, will determine which healthcare facilities receive the infusion drug.”

    1. Nancy_Naive Avatar

      There is a considerable difference between “will determine which” and “will deliver to”. As a lawyer(?) I’m sure you understand the difference.

  11. vaconsumeradvocate Avatar

    Where are the data ranking states coming from? I don’t find that in the links or text. Seems people around me are getting the vaccine and often in the evening. Seems to be happening at least in the Roanoke area and I know people all over the state who’ve gotten it. When I heard in the Republican response to the SOS last week that we were behind I wondered the source. You link to articles about the subject but not a data source. Still haven’t found it anywhere.

  12. How many appointed administrators are holdovers from prior Democratic governors? Someone has posted that the administration knew about the coming need to set up a distribution procedure for nine months. I wonder whether they thought the vaccine would never be out in that time and so did nothing.

    1. CrazyJD, VDH still hasn’t managed to count cases on a timely basis. From 12-7 to 12-30, they made 1634 changes for cases by start date, adding 10,500 cases that started February 16 to November 15 . UVa had to change their model to use cases by report date because of all the old cases being input so long after they occurred, back fill as they called it. If VDH can’t perform that basic function, it’s no wonder they can’t mobilize a distribution program. I’m waiting to hear who they hire for how many millions of dollars to do it for them.

    2. The truth is that those administrators and the heads of the local health departments are those that have failed most frequently and visibly. It is without argument that they knew the vaccine would be rolled out weeks if not months ago, yet they failed to plan.

      As evidence, I turn the spotlight on Prince William County, the first place to look for failure. Despite knowledge of the vaccine and protocols, last week the health director publicly testified that they only had four nurses to oversee the vaccinations in a health district with nearly half a million residents and no concrete plans to increase the number.

      How do you spell failure, in this case FOUR.

    3. What you guys and others say is true, of course. Interesting that I don’t see our Democratic friends on the blog trying to defend the administration, though I do frequently see Larry trying to change the subject away from the vaccine mess.

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