More vaccine sought for Southwest region

February 09, 2021

Health Wagon President and Chief Executive Officer Teresa Tyson is pleading for Virginia to provide more COVID-19 vaccine doses to the far Southwest.

The nurse practitioner appeared last week on the CBS Morning News, explaining the predicament to national correspondent David Begnaud.

Begnaud explained that the Health Wagon covers the two westernmost health districts in Virginia. Last week, about 2,100 doses were supplied here out of 120,000 weekly doses coming to the commonwealth, he noted.

The Health Wagon provides free care to about 5,600 active patients, Begnaud said.

Tyson said the vaccine distribution is unfair because, although the Health Wagon’s coverage area is home to roughly 2 percent of the state’s population, many people here suffer from chronic health problems and live 10 years less than other folks in Virginia.

The region’s poverty rate is 54 percent higher than the rest of the commonwealth, Begnaud noted.

He asked Gov. Ralph Northam how the problem will be solved.

“It’s called more doses” distributed to Virginia as a whole, the governor said. The weekly distribution now is about 120,000, but it needs to be about 350,000, he explained.

But, Tyson asked, how can health providers here be patient when people are dying?


In a Monday press release, Virginia’s U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine urged the Biden administration to make certain that more vaccine doses go to rural communities. Their letter to the administration followed reports that pharmacies in Southwest Virginia are not participating in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccination, which ships doses directly to pharmacy retail stores.

The Centers for Disease Control list CVS as the only pharmacy chain that is participating in the program for Virginia, but no CVS locations in Southwest Virginia are now participating, the senators noted.