After weeks of vaccine rollouts across the state – many with lengthy lines and hours-long waits – Delaware officials say they are ready to give out more doses than ever.
“We are poised perfectly to deliver as many vaccines as the federal can provide to us,” said Gov. John Carney during his Feb. 2 press conference. “All we need is supply. We get supply, we'll get vaccines in people's arms. We get vaccines into people's arms, we'll get healthier, we'll get safer, we'll be able to get back to where we can have more people circulating, more business activity.”
Dr. Karyl Rattay, Division of Public Health director, said there are still 100,000 people on waiting lists for shots. The state went to a waiting list system after thousands of people showed up at weekend mass vaccination events, causing traffic jams that lasted for hours.
As of Feb. 2, there have been more than 110,000 vaccinations administered, with about 21,000 remaining. The state has received more than 131,000 doses from Pfizer and Moderna, and the federal government recently announced that states will get 20 percent more a week. Over the past few weeks, Delaware has been receiving about 20,000 weekly doses.
“The bottom line is really we are building a capacity, and we already have the capacity to receive and administer much, much more vaccine than we have in the state,” Rattay said. “As soon as the federal government gets us more vaccine, we are ready.”
Rattay said she has no preference between the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, but she is excited for the arrival of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which requires only one shot compared to the two needed for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Earlier in the week, Carney announced that the state is partnering with pharmacies, hospitals and other groups to administer vaccines. It's no longer an issue of needing more manpower to put shots in arms; it's a matter of getting more doses, he said.
“If we got four times what we're currently getting – so instead of 20,000 to 25,000 a week we got 100,000 a week – we could distribute it in a week through these partners and through larger events,” Carney said. “The Johnson & Johnson one dose is simply a game changer because it's going to give us another source of supply.”
Beebe sets up centralized site
Beebe Healthcare President & CEO Dr. David Tam said his group continues to vaccinate folks 65 and older as quickly as possible. After partnering with the state to run drive-through community events at the Georgetown DMV two weeks ago, Beebe set up a centralized vaccination site in Millsboro to provide vaccines to any eligible resident of Sussex County when they become available.
“Beebe Healthcare recognized that our patients are simply not just those who go to see their primary care doctor in the Beebe Medical Group, but actually all patients that Beebe Healthcare touches across the county, whether they be cancer patients, urology patients, pulmonary patients, surgical patients,” Tam said.
Those wishing to get on Beebe’s waitlist must fill out a secure form on Beebe’s website and they’ll be contacted when vaccine is available. Tam also encouraged residents to sign up for waitlists at pharmacies, their primary care physician’s office and with the state of Delaware. Bayhealth also has its own waitlist.
After reading comments during a Feb. 3 town hall, Tam felt implored to address frustrations in the community.
“I’m sorry that everybody here is going through such a hard time,” he said. “I know this is the most frustrating situation for so many of you as we are now at a point where we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and the vaccine is working. At the end of the day, we have a responsibility to do better. We’re working very hard to make sure nobody is left behind and that everybody has a chance to get vaccine. There is not enough vaccine out there. There is not a cache that can vaccinate everybody. Sometimes it’s waiting to see what will come.”
Dr. Bill Chasanov, COVID-19 medical director at Beebe, said active cases of the coronavirus across the country appear to be declining. Locally, he said, hospitalizations peaked a few weeks ago, but continue to be where they were in late April and early May. And as Super Bowl Sunday approaches, a popular time to gather, he urged people to take precautions.
“I know the Super Bowl is an exciting day, but it’s really important to do what we know has kept us safe,” he said.
To sign up for Beebe’s COVID-19 vaccine waitlist, go to www.beebehealthcare.org/covid-19-vaccine.