Virginia's US Senate delegation to Biden: Get SWVA in federal pharmacy program for COVID-19 vaccines

Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, in a Monday letter to leadership at the federal Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cited news accounts in recent days that pharmacies in Southwest Virginia are not included in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccination.

“We have heard from a number of providers, community leaders and other stakeholders expressing their concerns about a lack of adequate vaccine access in rural areas of Virginia,” Kaine and Warner wrote to acting HHS Secretary Norris Cochran and CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Wallensky.

CVS spokesperson Amy Thibault said on Thursday the company will also offer COVID-19 vaccinations in its Abingdon location, more than an hour from Lee County, the westernmost locality in the LENOWISCO Health District.

The senators asked Cochran and Wallensky to work with Southwest Virginia health care providers, community leaders and other stakeholders to expand the program and to review the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program and to make sure it allows for “equitable vaccine distribution and administration in rural communities.”

Tyson, in a CBS news segment Feb. 4, said that her group and other free clinics in rural areas have not gotten any COVID-19 vaccine supplies since distribution began in December.

Tyson said that, although Virginia is distributing its federal allocation — approximately 120,000 doses a week — to health districts proportionally to each district’s population, Southwest Virginia and many other rural areas of the state see higher rates of heart and pulmonary disease combined with less hospital and transportation access.

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