Vaccine shortage delays distribution, VCUHealth stops new appointments

VCUHealth is putting a pause on COVID-19 vaccination appointments. Photo by Enza Marcy

Anya Sczerzenie, Staff Writer

A shortage of COVID-19 vaccines, a slow rollout and a prioritization of the most vulnerable groups means that the majority of Virginians — and most VCU students — will have to wait many more months to get fully vaccinated.

Virginia is among the states in the U.S. that are currently experiencing a vaccine shortage. As of Jan. 21, there are enough vaccines in the entire country to cover only 185 million Americans, and some of these doses are sitting on shelves unused, according to a New York Times article.

Over 742,000 Virginians have received at least one dose so far, and 130,735 people have been fully vaccinated, according to data from the Virginia Department of Health.

Virginia has a population of more than 8.5 million people. Out of the 300,000 vaccine doses that the commonwealth requested per week, only 105,000 were delivered per week as of Jan. 21. Dr. Danny Avula, director of Richmond and Henrico County’s Health Departments, told CBS 6 this caused supply problems.

Due to the shortage, VCU stopped scheduling first-dose appointments for COVID-19 vaccines after Jan. 30, according to VCU’s website. However, students who have received a first dose already can still receive a second dose.

Junior exercise science student Linsey Martin said she knew about the vaccine shortage in Virginia, and that the first dose she got on Jan. 27 was one of the last ones the university gave. 

“In fact, I was lucky to schedule mine right before they stopped taking appointments because they were running out,” Martin said. 

Martin has still not received her second dose, but will be getting it Feb. 17. 

Gov. Ralph Northam said during a press conference on Jan. 27 that there would be a 16% increase in the number of vaccines shipped to the commonwealth. 

As of Tuesday, 1,306,800 doses have been distributed to Virginia, and 901,213 of those have been administered, according to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s official website.

In Richmond, there are 2,681 fully vaccinated people as of Tuesday, according to the VDH.

Bon Secours Nursing Student Hannah Worsham receives her COVID-19 vaccine at St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond, Virginia on January 25, 2021. Photo by Ellie Badgley

Samantha Robertson, a senior nursing student and an employee of VCU Health System, said she received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Dec. 23 and her second on Jan. 21. 

“I didn’t want to risk people’s health by not doing it,” said Robertson, who hopes to start her nursing residency after graduating. “For me, it was a no-brainer.”

Robertson says that she hasn’t heard anything about a shortage of vaccines, and was able to get both doses. 

“Getting the vaccine has given me peace of mind, and I feel like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Robertson said. 

VCU President Michael Rao said in a Jan. 12 release that clinical students could begin receiving vaccinations and that 2,100 students were eligible for the vaccine. As of Monday, 1,343 students have been vaccinated, according to VCU Public Relations.

Robertson said that although she can’t control what others do, she urges other people to get the vaccine. She said COVID-19 has affected family visits to the hospital.

“I worked the day they let visitors back in, and the morale did a complete 180,” Robertson said. “Now that visitors aren’t allowed, it’s gone back to what it was. Some patients can’t even see their families.”

The commonwealth administers around 35,880 doses every day of both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines as of Tuesday, according to the VDH. The number administered has grown steadily since the commonwealth gave its first dose on Dec. 14. 

This number now surpasses Northam’s goal, stated in a Jan. 6 release, to vaccinate 25,000 people daily.

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