VDH trying to get more vaccines to rural communities

Now, a doctor or independent pharmacy can order as little as six doses or as many as 180 doses...
Now, a doctor or independent pharmacy can order as little as six doses or as many as 180 doses at one time.(WDBJ7)
Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 5:56 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - State leaders say they’ve developed a new program to get more vaccines into the communities that need it most.

And they report it’s working well.

The Virginia Department of Health’s Small Shipment Redistribution Program aims to get vaccines to the people they know Virginians trust the most - their own doctors.

Dr. Stephanie Wheawill, Division Director of Pharmacy for VDH, said Thursday that’s been hard to do until now. That’s because Pfizer vaccines, for example, come in shipments of more than 1,170 doses each. And most general doctors’ offices don’t have the ability to store that much vaccine, especially at the temperatures required to keep it viable.

June 1, VDH stood up the new program, which takes big Pfizer vaccine shipments, some of them already redistributed, and breaks them down into smaller quantities.

Now, a doctor or independent pharmacy can order as few as six doses or as many as 180 doses at one time.

Wheawill said they hope this method can bring vaccines to the populations where demand has lagged, and increase the chances of herd immunity.

“They obviously are trusted in their community, they know their community and they know their patients,” she said. “So they have that ability to help with outreach and that’s extremely important right now.”

So how effective has it been?

By Thursday, which was day 10 of the program, Wheawill said 95 providers had signed up for the program. So far, they’ve distributed 7,248 doses, with providers ordering an average of 13 vials or 80 doses at a time.

As far as limitations of the program, Dr Wheawill said the program is still in its infancy and they are working to make changes as they go.

They’re currently looking at ways to communicate more effectively to give providers advanced notice of vaccine shipments.

They started a process this week where providers can alert them to specific days they prefer not to receive shipments.

She said it was unclear at this point how many of the vaccines they redistributed had been administered, but noted that some providers have already begun to request more orders.

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