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Northam: ‘Get shots in arms’

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued new guidance to health care providers who have the COVID-19 vaccine — use it or lose it.

Ralph Northam

“I want you to empty those freezers and get shots in arms,” Northam said during a Wednesday, Jan. 6, press conference in Richmond. “When you have vials, give out shots until they’re gone.”

The message at Northam’s Wednesday afternoon press conference comes as Virginia is ranked 31st in the nation for its rate of vaccine distribution. According to Becker’s Hospital Review, the commonwealth has only administered 26.24% of doses currently in stock.

“No one wants to see any supplies sitting unused,” Northam said. “The companies are manufacturing more. They’re working around the clock, and you’re going to get more. So don’t save anything. You’re going to get every dose you need, because more is coming.”

Northam also said as more doses come to Virginia the National Guard will be utilized to help with the vaccination process. The goal for the state is to administer 25,000 shots per day. The pace has to eventually increase to 50,000 shots per day to vaccinate all 8.5 million Virginians by the summer.

“Right now, Virginia is receiving about 110,000 doses a week,” Northam said.  “Our first step is to use up all of that supply to completely wipe out that supply, because we know that the supply will be replenished. That works out to about 14,000 doses per day.”

Northam said the state added 12,000 doses Wednesday, Jan. 6, so the numbers are close to the total needed.

The governor said “use it or lose it” does not mean health care providers should ignore that priority order of the segments of the population who should receive the vaccine first.

Northam said health care professionals should be vaccinated first followed by residents of long-term care facilities and then essential workers such as firefighters, police officers, grocery store workers, food plant processing workers and transit workers. The largest group of essential workers are 285,000 teachers and child care professionals. Add to that group residents ages 75 and over and the total in the first phase of vaccinations equals about 2 million people. Northam said it is expected to take “well into the springtime” to vaccinate that group of citizens.

“We need to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible,” Northam said.