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State Officials Express Concern Over COVID-19 Vaccine Slowdown

Photo courtesy WV Governor’s Office – Gov. Jim Justice discusses the state’s concerns over the slowdown in delivery of vaccine doses to West Virginia.

CHARLESTON — West Virginia continues to lead the nation in COVID-19 vaccine distribution, but state officials said Tuesday that the number of new vaccine doses from the federal government is slowing down.

Gov. Jim Justice, speaking Tuesday during a coronavirus briefing at the Capitol, said the state was supposed to receive 25,000 vaccine doses this week, but those doses have not arrived.

According to the Department of Health and Human Resources, the state received 132,700 doses of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. As of Tuesday, 132,192 first-round doses have been administered, leaving just 508 first-round doses.

Both vaccines require two shots each, with the Pfizer vaccine requiring a second shot after 21 days and the Moderna vaccine requiring a second shot after 28 days. The state has already administered 86 percent of the 28,275 second-round shots, leaving just 4,094 shots for the second dose.

“We can’t give you a vaccine shot if we don’t have the vaccines,” Justice said. “That is absolutely inadequate. It’s unacceptable.”

Justice said even with the 25,000 doses expected, it’s still not enough given West Virginia has a large aging population and a large population with pre-existing medical conditions.

“It’s the third oldest state in the union and it’s the most critically ill state with many chronic illnesses,” Justice said. “We have to have more vaccines, because we can save lives and we won’t leave them on a shelf.”

Justice and James Hoyer, the leader of the state’s interagency vaccine task force, are working the phones to get more vaccines to the state.

Justice said vaccine doses in other states should be moved to West Virginia since the state has worked so fast. More than 7 percent of the state’s 1.8 million people have received the first dose of vaccine, while more than 1 percent of West Virginia residents are now fully vaccinated with both doses.

“We’re going to keep trying in every way, some way and somehow,” Justice said.

“Here we are with no vaccines. We have them in people’s arms and we’ve done exactly what we should have done and we performed. I think performance ought to be rewarded.”

Justice attributed some of the delay to the changeover in administrations as President Donald Trump prepares to leave the White House and President-elect Joe Biden prepared to be sworn in later today. Biden has sworn to get 100 million vaccinations done within the first 100 days of his administration, setting up vaccination centers, and making doses available at pharmacies.

“We’re going through a transition of administrations and everything. That’s a real problem,” Justice said. “I hope and pray the Biden administration will really step up to the plate and help us, because … if they send us vaccines, we’ll put them in someone’s arm.”

Hoyer said the state continues to expand partnerships for vaccination specific groups, such as people with developmental disabilities. That state announced Tuesday the opening this week of vaccination clinics in 16 counties for the older population, starting at age 65 and older. More information on clinics can be found at vaccinate.wv.gov. The state also is developing an online appointment system to help facilitate vaccinations.

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