CHARLESTON — West Virginia did not receive any extra doses of the COVID-19 vaccine this week, much to the frustration of Gov. Jim Justice.
“We can’t give you shots if we don’t have the vaccines,” he said during his Tuesday pandemic briefing. “We expected an additional 25,000 doses this week. They did not come.”
The state was supposed to get those doses above the 23,000 that had already been promised, but doubt was cast on that last week when the federal government said a reported stockpile of the vaccine did not actually exist.
“From the standpoint of West Virginia, at 23,000, that is absolutely unacceptable,” he said. “We need them and we need to get them out.”
Justice said not only is West Virginia in need because of its vulnerable population, but also because it remains number one in the nation in administering the vaccine that is sent, a chart-topping rate of 99.6 percent.
“I want shots in the arms,” he said of his aggressive program to administer the doses as quickly as possible and not leave any on the shelves.
Justice has recently been featured on several national news shows to talk about the state’s vaccination program and why it’s been so successful.
In fact, mass vaccination clinics around the state are set up this week to vaccinate those 65 years old and older, with one at the Princeton Church of God on Oakvale Road on Friday. However, enough people have already signed up for that clinic for the doses that will be available.
Justice’s plan started with those 80 and older, then lowered to 70 and now, following CDC guidelines, is at 65, including younger residents with comorbidity issues.
But the number of people vaccinated depends on the supply.
“We have to have more vaccines,” he said. “We can save lives and we don’t leave them on the shelf … Performance ought to be rewarded.”
Justice said he is hopeful the new President’s administration will push more to get them out.
“I hope and pray the (Pres. Joe R.) Biden Administration will step up to the plate and help us,” he said, saying 13 million vaccines have been sent out around the country some time ago but have not been used. “Where are they?”
He said he is always respectful to a new president and will be to Biden.
“I want us to work well together and I think we will,” he said. “His personality seems to fit in a lot of ways with mine … laid back. Our people are already talking to them (Biden transition team).”
Biden will be inaugurated today at noon.
Retired Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, director of the InterAgency Vaccine Task Force, said the state has been receiving about 100,000 doses a month but that is not nearly enough.
“Our objective is 120,000 a week, that is what we want,” he said, adding that the focus moving forward right now is on age, and setting up a network of providers and the vaccination clinics, like the one in Princeton Friday.
Mercer County has been named a regional vaccination clinic site, said Dr. Steven Stefancic, Mercer County Health Officer.
“That means we will not only be serving Mercer County but surrounding counties as well to make our communities safer for everyone,” he said Tuesday.
Stefancic said those who want the vaccine and have already signed up will be given a time to come to Friday’s clinic, which will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“Currently, there are more individuals who want the vaccine than what we have been told we will be receiving this week,” he said.
But he urged anyone who has not yet signed up and submitted the information to do so, with registration online at www.mchdwv.com the best way to do it since the phone line at the health department is often overloaded.
“We will be working through the list (of those who sign up) as time progresses to make sure everyone who wants a vaccine will get a vaccine,” he said, adding that everyone will be followed up to make sure they get the second dose.
For Pfizer, those doses are three weeks apart and for Moderna four weeks apart. Receiving both doses will result in about a 95 percent effective rate.
Stefancic also requested motorists to avoid the Church of God area during Friday’s clinic to prevent any delays.
Mercer County now has a Mobile Vaccine Task Force to help out, he said, and it includes many agencies and entities.
“We could not do it without full community involvement,” he said.
Stefancic also said the local number of positive COVID cases is improving, with the rate of new cases lessening.
“The numbers are going down,” he said, a trend so far reflected statewide as well.
Justice said there is along way to go, but the daily positivity rate is dropping as well as the number of hospitalizations and those in ICU.
However, deaths continue to climb as a result of the recent surge, and he read the ages and gender of 82 more victims across the state over the long weekend, with a total now of 1,815.
In Mercer County, as of Jan. 18, the number of active cases has dropped to 1,434 with 19 new confirmed cases, six probable cases and a total of 72 deaths.
According to the state Department of Health and Human Resources, more deaths have been reported at long-term care facilities in the county.
Mercer Nursing and Rehab has reported seven deaths, but the number of positive cases from the recent surge has dropped from a total of 104 residents and staff to 55.
Maples Health Care in Bluefield has reported five deaths and Stonerise Princeton has recorded five deaths.
With Princeton Health Care Center’s previous 24, the total COVID deaths in the county at long-term care facilities stands at 41.
— Contact Charles Boothe at firstname.lastname@example.org.