Westmoreland County government appears to be a powerless bystander in the defense against the COVID-19 pandemic and its residents remain vulnerable to infection. Virginia’s vaccination plan as currently configured is concentrated in the centers of highest population while Westmoreland’s large percentage of retired persons is bypassed.

The County Health Department clinic is operated by a private company that similarly serves various other jurisdictions. A call there to inquire about vaccination is launched on a telephone and internet merry-go-round through the Northern Neck COVID-19 Call Center, the Three Rivers Health District of the Virginia Department of Health covering counties in the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula, and retail pharmacies CVS, Walgreen’s and Rite-Aid.

At present, only CVS among retail pharmacies offers vaccination appointments in a state- approved plan to serve people who previously registered for vaccination with state health department offices such as Three Rivers. The company skipped past this requirement to allow appointments to be sponged up by CVS customers and others without regard to prior wait-listing. There being no CVS in Westmoreland, its vaccination sites in Virginia on the company website show the closest stores as Fredericksburg or Richmond, both noted “fully booked” as this is written.

Virginia has largely abdicated its responsibility for vaccination to commercial enterprises after distributing the first deliveries of the vaccine to hospitals. Some Westmorelanders have received vaccination at Riverside Hospital in Tappahannock, but only persons who are patients of practices associated with the hospital are accepted for appointments.

County government must insist to the State Health Dept. and Governor Northam that vaccine provided to the state by the federal government is shared equitably with rural counties rather than just the high-density population centers where chain pharmacies largely cluster.

My wife and I moved here from Maryland because of the area’s beauty, serenity and healthy lifestyle, not realizing that we would surrender our protection against public health issues that we enjoyed there.

-David Kirby,

Glebe Harbor/Montross