Afternoon keynote: one-on-one conversation with Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax
Closing out the afternoon keynote at the 2021 Virginia State of Reform Health Policy Conference, Lieutenant Governor and gubernatorial candidate Justin Fairfax shared his thoughts on the state response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the upcoming gubernatorial election.
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Looking ahead, Fairfax says expanding access to affordable health care—namely COVID-19 vaccines—will play an instrumental role in his election campaign. Virginia has administered roughly six million vaccine doses so far, vaccinating or partially vaccinating 40 percent of the state population. Fairfax commented that the state’s vaccination efforts are an ongoing process:
“It is work that we have to engage in every single day, to make sure we are delivering, and also to make sure we are doing so equitably.”
Also on his radar is streamlining access to health insurance, especially for children. Roughly 600,000-700,000 Virginians are currently uninsured, of which 100,000 are children.
With these goals for Virginia’s health policies in mind, Fairfax aims to address them from a holistic perspective. He commented on the effects of the social determinants of health:
“[Health care is] connected to housing policy. It’s also connected to issues around criminal justice reform, which I continue to lead on, as well as education.”
Fairfax first ran for state office in 2013 in the Attorney General election, losing by a narrow margin with 48 percent of the state vote. Four years later, he won the election for lieutenant governor as the Democratic nominee. The difference this year, he says, is the importance of being adaptable to meet Virginians’ needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fairfax says the pandemic reinforced the need for systemic change:
“[COVID-19] has really exposed so many of the inequalities, the inefficiencies in our society,” says Fairfax. “So much of the work we have to do to make sure no one falls through the cracks.”