A coalition of local governments in Northern Virginia is calling on Gov. Ralph Northam to streamline the release of COVID-19 vaccine doses and provide more transparency and equity into the process.
The letter signed by 14 local government leaders was sent by the Northern Virginia Regional Commission to Northam on Sunday. The commission has been coordinating the region's response to the pandemic.
Release of the letter comes as the region reported its first case of the more contagious B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19, first discovered in the United Kingdom, and as the area's largest hospital system, Inova, announced it was canceling first-dose vaccine appointments due to a supply shortage.
The letter said the region is prepared to administer between 65,000 and 70,000 vaccines a week, with capacity for nearly half of those in the Fairfax Health District, including Inova.
In the five weeks since vaccine shipments began, the region has administered about 100,000 doses, according to tracking from the Virginia Department of Health. Northern Virginia has about 1.9 million residents over the age of 16; the two vaccines currently being used are not approved for children under age 16.
"We need a streamlined process to release doses directly to NOVA, provide the ability to detail who has doses and finally allow our Region priority as we are ready and able to vaccinate significant numbers now," the letter stated. "Simply put, the problem is a sufficient, predictable and equitable supply of vaccine."
Dr. Danny Avula, a local health district director in Richmond who was appointed earlier this month by Northam to coordinate the state's vaccination efforts, said Friday that the state has received requests from local health districts and health-care providers for nearly three times the number of vaccine doses it is receiving from the federal government.
Avula said vaccines are being distributed to health districts around the state based on population, and health districts can then determine how to distribute them within their region.
The regional commission's letter was signed by board chairs and mayors of the following jurisdictions: Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties; the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park; and the towns of Dumfries, Herndon, Middleburg, Leesburg and Vienna.