by Brandon Jarvis

The House of Delegates passed emergency legislation on Tuesday night that would increase the medical staff available to provide COVID-19 vaccinations. The bill would also require data collection and reporting by vaccinators to help track how vaccines are being distributed between communities.

HB 2333, sponsored by Delegate Lamont Bagby (D-Henrico), is considered emergency legislation and was advanced from committee to final full-floor passage in one day – a task that typically takes several days to complete. 

The bill received unanimous support in the House.

“The House vaccinator bill will expand the number of healthcare professionals eligible to administer COVID-19 vaccinations,” said Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax). “This legislation will significantly expand the Commonwealth’s capacity to get shots in arms as an increased supply of vaccines are provided by federal authorities. This is a critical step as the General Assembly works with Governor Northam to keep Virginia healthy and turn the corner on this pandemic.”

House Republicans, who have been blaming Governor Northam for the slow rollout of vaccines in Virginia, weren’t eager to give the Democrats full credit for this legislation.

“This bill, modeled off of Del. Kathy Byron’s (R-Bedford), will go a long way towards correcting the failures of the Northam Administration,” said Garren Shipley, spokesperson for House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert (Shenandoah). “Happy to see the [Democrats] running with this bipartisan legislation.”

HB 2333 is similar to a version that has already passed the Senate, SB 1445, sponsored by Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico). Dunnavant’s bill, however, leaves out the requirement that vaccinators report race and ethnicity data. Recent reports show that Virginia has not recorded the race or ethnicity for over half of the recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

The House bill also differs by specifying more directly who is eligible to administer vaccinations, while the Senate version is more open-ended, saying “any health care provider in the Commonwealth as set out in this act who is qualified and available to administer the COVID-19 vaccine may volunteer.”

Both chambers have to pass the same exact bill in order for it to be sent to Governor Northam’s office so he can sign it into law. 

According to a source close to Governor Northam, the latest numbers show that Virginia has administered close to 7,000 doses per 100,000 people. In addition, Virginia has administered 51% of the doses they have received, the national average is 53%. The Governor also set a goal in early January to administer 25,000 vaccines a day, the new data shows that Virginia has administered over 30,000 shots in each of the last four days, surpassing the goal.  

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By vascope