The Northam administration appears to have made a solid recovery from its disappointing performance in giving Virginians the COVID-19 vaccination. After falling to dead last a week ago among the 50 states in the Becker’s Hospital Review ranking of percentage of COVID-19 vaccines administered, the Old Dominion stands today at 21st. Some of this whipsaw change in rankings likely is due to data reporting delays and catch-ups, but it seems safe to conclude that the situation in the real world is less dire than appeared to be a week ago.
The Virginia Department of Health has published a new view of the vaccine data that gives some insight into what is going on. Hospitals have been the primary channel for administering the vaccine, and they likely will continue to be so for a while because they also have the largest unused inventory.
Local health departments have been the No. 2 channel, and their importance will grow now that the Northam administration has designated them to be the primary conduit. Health departments have gotten the lion’s share of vaccine deliveries in the past seven days (shown by the gray shading in the lines). Medical practices, community health providers and pharmacies are second-tier players and will continue to be because they are getting very few doses.
The switch from hospitals to health departments as the leading distribution channel has caused some confusion as hospitals received smaller vaccine deliveries than expected and had to cancel thousands of appointments. Health departments will rely heavily upon a new state registration process to sign people up. That website has not yet been created, and the Governor could not say last week when it will be.
Another potential snag: 342,000 first-dose vaccines have been delivered to hospitals, but only 250,000 second-dose vaccines. Will hospitals have enough to give second shots to patients who received their first shots?
A lot rides now on the performance of the local health departments. Some appear well prepared to meet the challenge. Others… maybe not so much. We’ll see.