By Sarah Richardson
On Monday, during his regularly scheduled press conference, Governor Jim Justice declared that West Virginia is continuing to lead the nation in the rate of COVID-19 vaccine distribution and administration. “We are making significant progress in our plan to offer vaccination to all long-term care facility residents and staff, and we should be complete with all 214 facilities in the state today,” he said. “It’s amazing and it’s far ahead of any other state in the nation. That’s 100 percent of our long-term care facilities that we will have offered vaccines to in our state and before some other states have even gotten started.
Local Health Officer Dr. Bridgett Morrison provided an update on Wednesday saying, “Our state has been very aggressive about getting the vaccine. I can confirm that all of our long-term care facilities have had the opportunity to be vaccinated.”
She explained that most hospitals and long-term care facilities receive and administer their own shipments through their staff, and the health department is not solely responsible for the administration. “Some do come to the health department based on the tier being vaccinated,” she said, such as local EMS and emergency responders.
Before the vaccine received final approvals for distribution on Dec. 14, a vaccine implementation plan was released. This plan was designed with phases of risk categories in mind. Members of the high-risk population and essential frontline workers were placed into Phase 1 to ensure those at the most risk of contracting COVID were protected.
Phase 1 is broken down into four subsections: Phase 1-A through Phase 1-D:
Phase 1-A: includes hospital, long-term care facility and staff, and pharmacies
Phase 1-B: includes community infrastructure and emergency response, public health officials, and first responders
Phase 1-C: includes other healthcare workers, like home health providers
Phase 1-D: includes teachers and education staff in higher education and K-12 and other sectors for critical services for our state, such as utility and transportation workers
“We are planning to offer vaccines to all individuals identified in Phase 1-A through Phase 1-D within the first six weeks, based on our allocation of vaccines,” said Justice. “As our allocation increases and distribution occurs, we may be able to move through the phases more quickly. In Phase 2, which is the general population, we will place initial emphasis on our most vulnerable in the general population based on guidance from the CDC.
The state is now on Week 3 of the implementation plan.
As of last Monday, 30,737 of 60,875 total doses delivered in West Virginia to date have been administered. This 50.49% vaccination rate is the highest of any state in the nation according to Bloomberg.com, with Maine ranking second in the nation at approximately 37%.
Bloomberg also reports that as of Dec. 30 the United States has administered 2.32 million doses of the vaccine- the most of any country so far.
The Governor noted that a combined total of 25,925 additional doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are expected to be delivered in West Virginia this week.
“When these vaccines are offered to you, you’ve got to take them,” Justice said. “We want, absolutely, to get all of you vaccinated.”
“I strong urge everyone to consider getting the vaccination,” Dr. Morrison added. “It’s just one tool in our toolbox, but it’s a powerful tool. That, along with wearing masks and social distancing, all combined will help lead to getting life back on track.”