Gov. Ralph Northam says more regular deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines are coming from the federal government, and Virginia has now shifted how it allocates doses, meaning a 20 percent increase in "shots in arms" by the end of this week.
The White House, Northam said at a Wednesday news conference, has committed to sending new monthly shipments of the vaccines, rather than weekly, to state health districts based on population. Virginia health officials are also shifting current inventory so that hospitals and clinics aren't saving for second doses.
Northam says the biggest challenge is and will remain vaccine supply, noting the state has so far received 105,000 doses per week.
“Our progress is very much going to be supply dependent,” he said.
The governor's latest update comes as the area's largest hospital system, Inova, announced it was canceling first-dose vaccine appointments due to a supply shortage, and Northern Virginia leaders called on Northam to streamline the process.
School districts in Northern Virginia have begun vaccinating teachers and staff, but many school boards have been waiting for clarity on when a majority of staff will be vaccinated before bringing more students back into classrooms.
Prince William County schools officials recently took matters into their own hands and privately set up clinics for teachers and staff after learning the division would need to wait for vaccines.
Northam said school districts should not base decisions on bringing students back on vaccines for teachers.
"Our emphasis at the state level is to ... really move toward getting children back in classrooms as soon as we can," he said.
Northam also announced he is extending current COVID-19 restrictions, including curfew and limits on gatherings, through the end of February.
"Vaccines are the light at the end of this long and dark tunnel," he said. "They are a great reason for hope and optimism, but I also want to acknowledge everyone is out of patience. It will take time reach everyone, and we are reaching more people every day."