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W.Va. Falling Behind in COVID Vaccination Race

A situation we warned of several weeks back with fewer West Virginians getting vaccinated seems to be growing — and it has caught the attention of Gov. Jim Justice.

Justice, during a COVID-19 news conference this past week, said it was unacceptable that less than 85% of the COVID-19 vaccine supply alloted to West Virginia has been utilized. According to the Associated Press, Justice now realizes that West Virginia’s strong start in the vaccination race has hit a wall, and neighboring states now are vaccinating residents at a faster pace.

“That is incredibly low as a percentage,” Justice said of the 84.8% utilization number. “And I will promise you state after state is running significantly ahead of us, because we don’t have arms to get it in people right now.”

Those other states include Pennsylvania, where Gov. Tom Wolf’s initial vaccine rollout was slow and ineffective. But now, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control, Pennsylvania is vaccinating faster than West Virginia — including with the most vulnerable population of 65 and older.

West Virginia is, quite simply, headed in the wrong direction right now.

In West Virginia, 60.3% of people aged 65 and older — the group most vulnerable to COVID-19 — have been fully vaccinated, according to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. That’s not good enough, given West Virginia’s early push to vaccinate older residents.

Justice, to his credit, has called for clinics to be held at churches and civic organizations to help reach people more easily. That’s the right move, particularly in regions where residents have to drive long distances to get a shot.

Given the early successes of the state’s vaccine push, there’s no reason why West Virginia should now be falling behind. State public health officials have work to do to understand why residents are not getting vaccinated.

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