Mineral County 'ahead of numbers' with COVID vaccine

Liz Beavers
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KEYSER - Although the state’s health secretary says up to a quarter of senior citizens who pre-registered for a COVID vaccination have yet to be booked for an appointment, Mineral County appears to be ahead of the game when it comes to getting shots in arms.

“We’re pretty much done with our list; as of this morning we’re down to about 300,” Mineral County Health Department administrator A.Jay Root told the News Tribune Monday.

“We are ahead of the numbers that the state website has for us,” he said.

During Gov. Jim Justice’s press conference Friday,  W.Va. DHHR cabinet secretary Bill Crouch said about 22% to 25% of residents 65 and over don't have a shot scheduled yet. But he added "a lot of these individuals," making up a total of 11,000 to 12,000, may have separately found an appointment through a local pharmacy or clinic.

Root said Mineral County’s numbers are also affected by that unknown factor.

“There are different places now you can get vaccinated,” he said, noting that some local pharmacies are offering the vaccine, as well as the Veterans Administration. And since Mineral County is a border county, some residents may have opted to receive their vaccine in Maryland.

Mineral County has been holding large vaccination clinics every Thursday at Keyser Fire Station No. 2, and has four additional clinics scheduled over the next four weeks for those needing their second innoculation.

According to Root, they have almost 1,000 scheduled this Thursday.

As for those age 65 and over who have not yet received their first vaccination, Root said the demand is lessening and the health department will therefore begin “dialing down” the clinics and holding smaller ones at the health department.

Justice said he has a goal of vaccinating 85% of the state's senior citizens. Last week, over 70% are at least partially vaccinated.

The state opened three new regional vaccine clinics in Kanawha, Berkeley and Monongalia counties for residents 65 and over, who are urged to call the state's vaccine hotline at 1-833-734-0965 if they are still waiting for an appointment.

"We will get you in that day if you call us," Justice said.

"We want all West Virginians now above the age of 65 to get your vaccine," he added. "And to be perfectly honest, we have the supply that we're going to end up putting stuff on shelves if you don't come and you don't come in droves to get the vaccine."

The state expects another increase in doses from the federal government this week.

Justice opened up vaccine eligibility to all residents aged 16 and older last week. The state is turning its attention to immunizing younger residents 16 to 29, seen as key to stopping the spread of more virulent coronavirus variants.

Through collaborating with local boards of education, the state plans vaccination clinics "tied to high schools to target that population," said James Hoyer, a retired major general leading the state's coronavirus task force.

Family members of students can also show up to at those high school events to be vaccinated together. Vaccinations are also being planned at colleges and universities.

Over 26% of the state's 1.78 million population is at least partially vaccinated, according to state data. About 16.5% of residents are fully inoculated against the disease that has killed 2,628 in West Virginia. Four additional deaths were reported Friday.

Meanwhile, coronavirus hospitalizations continued to increase, up 231 patients, a 53% jump from two weeks ago. The daily percent positivity rate is 3.85%, under the 5% mark that is seen as a good sign.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.