By Stefanie Jackson – Northampton is the number one county in Virginia for the total persons per 100,000 who have received the COVID-19 vaccine, Eastern Shore Health District Chief Operating Officer Jon Richardson announced Feb. 23.
The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered per 100,000 persons is “the ultimate measure of getting vaccines in people’s arms, so we’re pretty proud of that,” Richardson said during the Northampton supervisors meeting Tuesday night.
Around 18% of Eastern Shore residents have received the COVID-19 vaccine, about the same percentage as Alaska, the number one state in the U.S. for the percentage of its population who have been vaccinated for COVID-19, he said.
The Eastern Shore Health District receives about 500 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine weekly for Accomack and Northampton counties to share, and the health district is working as hard as it can to get the vaccines to as many people as possible as quickly as possible, Richardson said.
No one has missed a second dose of the vaccine and no COVID-19 vaccine appointments have been canceled by providers, “which makes us somewhat unique in the commonwealth,” he said.
That feat was accomplished even after the Eastern Shore did not receive its weekly shipment of the vaccine last week, likely due to inclement weather, Richardson said.
Extra vaccines were received this week to make up for the doses not received last week, he said.
Shore employees who have received the COVID-19 vaccine so far include healthcare workers, EMS personnel, firefighters, police and correctional officers, teachers, school staff members, and daycare providers.
Next in line to receive the vaccine are food and agriculture industry workers. Those vaccinations likely will be completed next week, Richardson said.
Nandua High School hosted a vaccination clinic Friday, Feb. 19, and about 800 people were vaccinated in six hours, he reported.
About 1,200 to 1,500 people could be vaccinated in the same amount of time if necessary, Richardson said.
The total number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations on the Shore was 252 as of Feb. 23, he said.
Supervisor John Coker suggested that the Eastern Shore Health District should distribute more of the COVID-19 vaccines to Eastern Shore Rural Health and fewer to Riverside Medical Group, because ESRH will vaccinate anyone but Riverside vaccinates only its patients.
ESRH provides “excellent service, first class all the way,” but Riverside says, “Oh, you’re not a client? See you later,” Coker asserted.
“We are absolutely looking at that and we are distributing it (the COVID-19 vaccine) equitably … as far as the vaccine supply is concerned,” Richardson said.
The health district also considers that ESRH serves about 75% of Shore residents, and Riverside serves roughly 25%, although there is some overlap, he added.
Riverside will administer the COVID-19 vaccine to anyone who has seen a Riverside clinician anytime since Jan. 1, 2020, and the medical group recently made 2,400 appointment times available, Richardson noted.
That means many people with underlying conditions such as heart disease or cancer will be able to schedule a vaccine appointment with Riverside, he said.
Supervisor Oliver Bennett asked how many people of color on the Shore have been vaccinated for COVID-19.
The percentage is “lower than we want it to be” and does not equal the percentage of the Shore’s population that represents people of color, Richardson said.
He has asked for input from friends who are people of color, and they said, “It’s going to take time.”
Richardson is confident that more people will get the COVID-19 vaccine as local leaders continue to share information on the vaccine’s efficacy and safety.
He said, “We want to get … back to some sense of normal. We’ve been out of that for a long time, and we’re due to get back.”