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COVID vaccine arrives in West Virginia

Mineral Daily News-Tribune
Gov. Jim Justice takes the vaccine as the first shipments arrived in West Virginia Monday.

By Charles Young

WV News

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WV News) — The first doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine arrived in West Virginia on Monday morning, according to Gov. Jim Justice and members of his coronavirus task force.

Initial shipments were sent to facilities in Monongalia and Kanawha counties and will be distributed throughout the state in the coming days, Justice said.

“Our National Guard is on this,” he said. “They are going to be distributing all across our state, and they’re going to be doing it right now.”

Vaccine doses are expected to arrive in Greenbrier, Cabell and Berkley counties on Tuesday, Justice said.

People who will be among the first recipients of the vaccine will be contacted by their employers, Justice said.

“If you are receiving doses from this first shipment, you will be contacted by your employers on where and when to schedule your appointments,” he said.

In addition to health-care workers, the staff and residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities will be included in the first phase of vaccinations, Justice said.

“By working with our partners, we will take care of those in our nursing homes and long-term care facilities,” he said. “We have incredible partners from various organizations working with us across the state to make all this happen.”

The state will focus on four priorities with its initial vaccine allocation, Justice said.

“Reduce the rate of hospitalizations, reduce the rate of deaths, protect our most vulnerable, ensure our state can maintain critical services,” he said.

The state’s vaccine distribution plan is divided into two phases.

The first phase, which is further divided into Phases 1A through 1D, includes hospital and long-term care workers, pharmacies, community infrastructure, emergency response, public health officials, first responders, other health care, teachers and education, utilities and transportation, in that order, Justice said.

The second phase includes members of the general public, he said.

Once the state gets to Phase 1C, a higher priority will be given to individuals 50 years and older, Justice said.

Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, adjutant general of the West Virginia National Guard and head of the Joint Interagency Task Force on Vaccination, said Guard members spent Monday processing doses of the vaccine for distribution.

“Things continue to move along smoothly,” he said. “Once we have identified where the first shots have been provided to individuals, we will provide that information to Gov. Justice so he can inform the public as the process moves forward.”

Dr. Clay Marsh, the state’s COVID-19 czar, called Monday an “extraordinary day in West Virginia.”

“For (those) out there who may be worried, this may be the safest vaccine we’ve put out so far,” he said. “The way it’s constructed — the fact that it’s just the genetic information that synthetically generates just a little part of virus — means that you can’t get an infection from the vaccine. It does not include any of the other parts of the virus, so there’s no opportunity to be infected. It is incredibly effective — 95% of people who got the vaccine (in trials) were protected against getting COVID.”

State Department of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Crouch said “scientifically sound, accurate information” about the vaccine will be posted on the DHHR website.

“That website will be updated this afternoon,” he said during Monday’s briefing. “The information on that website is based upon information from the FDA and the ACIP. The ACIP is the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.”

The independent committee of medical and public health experts develops recommendations on the use of vaccines in the civilian population of the United States, presenting those recommendations directly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Monday evening, Justice and the members of his COVID-19 task force received doses of the vaccine during an event livestreamed on the governor’s YouTube channel.

Justice, Hoyer, Marsh, Crouch, Dr. Ayne Amjad, the state’s health officer, and first lady Cathy Justice all received the first of two shots required for an effective vaccination.

The first doses of the vaccines administered in the state were given to employees of South Charleston’s Thomas Health Center on Monday afternoon, Justice said.

“It’s a great, great, great and a whale of an accomplishment for the state of West Virginia,” he said.