(The Center Square) – COVID-19 vaccine distribution in West Virginia has run smoothly so far, according to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHHR) and a statewide health care association.
Over the course of the first week, West Virginia expects to receive more than 60,000 doses. The initial doses will be given to the top priority groups, which include staff and residents of long-term care facilities and health care workers. More than 150,000 people are eligible for the state’s Phase 1 vaccination, which means some will have to wait for their initial dose. It is not yet available to the general population.
“Distribution has run smoothly as our Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) has been planning and practicing for this moment,” Allison Adler, the director of communications at the WVDHHR, told The Center Square.
The department’s task force is working with the West Virginia Hospital Association and West Virginia Health Care Association to determine the specific vaccine allotments for hospitals, Adler said. She said these agencies are working with the task force to convey the needs of their communities to complete these vaccinations.
Marty Wright, the CEO of the West Virginia Health Care Association, told The Center Square the process has been successful.
“There has been a lot of planning over the past several months in anticipation of the vaccine arrival, and that plan is being executed with success so far in West Virginia,” Wright said. “Both critical care hospital workers and long [term] care residents staff are already being vaccinated. The vaccine brings hope that we can finally turn the tide against this virus, and empower our communities with a weapon to defeat this threat.”
Wright said nursing homes and assisted living locations have partnered with pharmacies statewide, including large pharmacies, small pharmacies, chains and independent pharmacies. Through this partnership, he said they should be able to vaccinate more than 200 facilities in less than three weeks.
Adler said the completion of the first phase of vaccination will depend on the receipt of the vaccine doses and a consistent supply chain. The state has received vaccine doses from Pfizer and is set to receive more from Pfizer and initial doses from Moderna after it receives federal approval.
Gov. Jim Justice was one of the first to receive the vaccine, and he encouraged everyone to receive it when it becomes available to them.
“Lots of people are wondering how I’m feeling,” Justice said in a statement. “It didn’t hurt me a bit in the world. I’ve felt great. If this vaccine becomes available to you, please get vaccinated. It was painless, there was nothing to it."
When the first phase is complete, the state will move forward with vaccines for the general population, but Adler said it is too early to provide a concise timeline because it is dependent on vaccines receiving federal approval and the supply chain.