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Vaccine process confusing

On Tuesday, the Western Tidewater Health District surpassed a total of 10,000 cases of COVID-19. With about 147,815 people who live in Suffolk, Franklin, Isle of Wight County and Southampton County, that means about 1 in every 14 people locally has had the virus. Approximately 212 of those — or about 2.1% of those who have had it locally — have died of complications from the virus.

Meanwhile, only 679 people in the district have been fully vaccinated. We see top-down failures in the vaccine distribution process.

The federal government has not provided the states, including Virginia, the resources they need to be able to purchase, store, distribute and administer vaccines.

Virginia state government has had a haphazard process of distributing vaccines to localities, most recently switching from prior methods to a population-based allocation of vaccines.

Locally, the health department’s release last week of a single phone number for Suffolk folks who are in Phase 1B — precise figures are difficult to discover, but likely tens of thousands of Suffolk adults — led to a select few who dialed at the right moment feeling like they had hit the lottery, while many others never got through and were left frustrated and confused. The available appointments quickly filled up, and people are now being told different things about when they can call again.

The Western Tidewater Health District has suffered from the state’s inequitable distribution of vaccines — it was supposed to receive 10,000 doses recently and got only 900, officials have said. However, the lack of information flowing does a disservice to us all. There should be an online sign-up sheet to get an appointment, and mass vaccination events should already be planned.

Officials at all levels should be working to get this process straightened out soon. Lives depend on it.