Vaccine armory

Margaret McCormick, 83, is the first to receive the vaccine by healthcare workers during a vaccine distribution drive-through held by the Mercer County Health Department at the Brushfork National Guard Armory on Thursday, Jan. 7.

BLUEFIELD — Bluefield Transit Authority (BAT) is partnering with the Mercer County Health Department and the City of Bluefield to help those who want a COVID vaccine but have transportation issues.

Colin Cline, City Attorney and interim City Manager, said a BAT bus will be available Friday to transport residents of Tiffany Manor and Kingsbridge to the Princeton Rescue Squad vaccine clinic.

“We’ll take them back for the second dose,” he said.

City Board Vice Chair Barbara Thompson Smith said the rides are “very important in many ways” and they provide an opportunity for residents to receive the vaccination who may otherwise not have the opportunity.

“We can send a strong message,” she said. “We really need that shot. They will pick them up and take them back for that second shot.”

“It is a great deal,” said health department Administrator Roger Topping. ‘The ride is free.”

The opportunity for the vaccine also comes at a time when the COVID variants, especially the UK variant, are showing up in the area.

“We have four cases so far,” Topping said of Mercer County. “We also have received reports of a 2-month-old and a 2-week-old catching COVID-19.”

Vaccines are available today and Friday at the Princeton Rescue Squad from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Topping said the clinics are open to all residents at least 16 years old and no appointment is necessary.

On Monday, Gov. Jim Justice announced a plan to reward those between 16 and 35 who opt to take the vaccine.

Each participant will be given a $100 savings bond upon completion of being fully vaccinated.

Justice said that age group is spreading the COVID variants, which hit youth, and the variants are more easily transmissible and can be deadlier.

The overall goal is to have 70 percent of the state’s eligible population vaccinated, he said, and that will not only help stop the spread but also mean the end of the mandate to wears masks.

As of Tuesday, about 702,000 state residents have had at least one dose and the goal is to have just over 1 million residents reach that point, which is about 70 percent of the eligible population.

Justice also said the vaccine should soon be approved for kids 12 to 15 years old.

“We are at a critical point in this pandemic response,” Dr. Clay Marsh, state COVID-19 Czar, said Monday. “The key for us is to have more people step up to choose to be vaccinated to reduce the spread of COVID and COVID variants.”

Providing free transportation to the vaccine clinics is a way to help make that happen.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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