(The Center Square) – Gov. Jim Justice has outlined phase two of West Virginia's COVID-19 vaccination plan, which will occur after the top priority groups have had the opportunity to receive vaccination.
West Virginia began receiving the Pfizer vaccine earlier this week, which the state has begun to distribute to its highest priority groups in Phase 1-A: hospital workers, pharmacies and long-term care facility staff and residents.
After Phase 1-A is complete, the state will move on to three other priority groups. In Phase 1-B, the vaccine will go to community infrastructure and emergency response, public health officials and first responders. In Phase 1-C, it will go to other health care workers. In Phase 1-D, it will go to teachers, education staff and workers in other sectors critical to the state, such as transportation.
In Phases 1-C and 1-D, those 50 years old or older will be the top priority.
The state is expected to obtain about 60,000 doses in the first week, but about 150,000 people are eligible for the first phase of the vaccine distribution before the state can move onto the second phase. The governor’s office estimated phase two could begin as early as March, but the West Virginia Department of Health has declined to give any estimates because distribution relies on Moderna receiving federal approval and a reliable supply chain.
The West Virginia Health Care Association estimated 200 long-term care facilities should be vaccinated in less than three weeks.
After phase 1 is complete, the vaccine will be available for the general population, but it still will be broken down by priority groups. In Phase 2-A, the vaccine will be distributed to those over age 60, beginning with the oldest and working down. It then will be made available to those with pre-existing health problems with a physician order.
In Phase 2-B, the state will focus on providing the vaccine to those who were eligible in Phase 1-C and 1-D but did not receive the vaccine. After Phase 2-B is complete, the vaccine will be available to the general public.
A group of health care leaders wrote a letter earlier this week, encouraging people to receive the vaccine.
“We want to be clear: We will get vaccinated as soon as it is our turn, and we will recommend it as soon as possible to our family members and patients based on guidance from the CDC,” the letter read. “We trust the process, and we think you should, too.”
The governor also encouraged West Virginians to receive the vaccine when it becomes available to them and said the state is pushing out doses as fast as it can.
“We’re pushing the vaccines out the door as fast as we possibly can,” Justice said in a statement. “We’re distributing them all across our state. Our National Guard and all our health experts are doing a phenomenal job. But I’m going to push them and push them and push them. To be perfectly honest, if they got out 93.9 percent, that would be great, I’d pat them on the back, and I’d say it’s not good enough. We’ve got to get them all out.”
Justice already has received a vaccine dose and said he feels great.