Health Wagon says it hasn’t received COVID-19 vaccine doses
Governor says state isn't receiving enough doses to send to free clinic system
The head of The Health Wagon, the Wise County-based free clinic system that serves more than 5,600 patients in Southwest Virginia, many with medical vulnerabilities, said in a Thursday interview on “CBS This Morning” that the clinic has not received any COVID-19 vaccine doses from the state government.
According to the Virginia Department of Health, the two regions served by Health Wagon — Lenowisco and Cumberland Plateau health districts — have received 33,425 doses so far out of a total of 1,392,275 doses distributed across the state, but CBS stated that the majority have gone to local hospitals, pharmacies and health departments.
One of Health Wagon Executive Director Teresa Tyson’s main complaints is that her patients often don’t have access to reliable transportation or gas money to get to hospitals or other locations for shots, which is why the clinic uses mobile units that travel to 13 locations in Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott and Wise counties. The clinic’s patients also are more likely to have underlying medical issues that can cause worse cases of COVID-19, she says, and the region’s poverty rate is the highest in the state.
“They actually live 10 years less than our counterparts on the Eastern Shore of Virginia,” Tyson said in the news report. “How can you be patient in a pandemic when people are dying?”
Gov. Ralph Northam and Dr. Danny Avula, the state’s vaccine coordinator, said Virginia isn’t receiving enough doses yet to send them to everyone who wants one. “A month or two months from now, as new vaccines come on the scene, we’ll be able to start feeding all of these channels of providers and pharmacies that can get out the vaccine at large scale,” Avula told CBS.
“Right now, we’re getting about 120,000 doses a week, and we need about 350,000,” Northam said in an interview.
The state has received about 100,000 to 110,000 doses a week from the federal government until this week, when the number reached 122,750. Virginia is allocating doses by population — so more vaccine doses are going to more populated locations in Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads and the Richmond area. Tyson says that medical vulnerability should be taken into account as well.
As of Thursday, VDH reports a COVID-19 positivity rate of 11.5% in Lenowisco, which includes Lee, Scott and Wise counties, and 8.6% in Cumberland Plateau, which includes Buchanan, Dickenson, Russell and Tazewell counties. For more information about vaccine availability in these regions, click here.