‘We continue to lead the nation.’ In West Virginia, Covid-19 vaccinations are nearly double the national rate

‘We continue to lead the nation.’ In West Virginia, Covid-19 vaccinations are nearly double the national rate

More than 9% of people in West Virginia have received at least their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to data published Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nationally, that number stands at less than 6%.

“We continue to lead the nation,” Gov. Jim Justice said in a news conference Monday.

The governor’s announcement comes amid continued struggles with vaccine rollouts across the US. States are still working to ramp up their administrations with the help of mass vaccination sites and volunteer vaccinators, while others say they’re running out of supply and have appealed to the federal government for more doses.

West Virginia is second in the nation in terms of vaccines administered per capita and share of distributed doses that have been administered, according to CDC data, and has often led the nation in these metrics. The state has so far administered about 106% of the doses it has officially received, Justice said.

“This is a hard number to believe,” the governor said. “We’re getting more doses out of the vials than what they really anticipated.”

The state has added a sixth syringe to ancillary kit packs, said Jim Hoyer, director of the state’s interagency coronavirus task force.

“It is not every single vial that you get the extra dose, but we are getting enough, as the governor pointed out, that this is making a significant impact,” he said.

The latest CDC data shows West Virginia has administered about 84% of the doses it’s received — but the agency has previously said its data may be a few days behind. Nationally, the rate of administration is at about 55%.

State broke from federal plan early on

Addressing senior residents during his news conference, the governor added that the state may have saved “a thousand, 10 thousand, twenty thousand” lives because of its decision to move older residents higher in its priority list.

Many seniors “had lost hope because they knew they couldn’t get a vaccine shot really and truly until probably April,” Justice said. “Well, it’s January.”

And so far, West Virginia has vaccinated nearly 74,000 people 65 and older, he said.

“We were told, and we were given models by the federal government that, really, basically said we can’t get to you probably until April. But we didn’t follow that model,” he said.

Earlier this month, the state announced a program prioritizing the vaccinations of older residents against the virus, in an operation dubbed “Save our Wisdom.”

That plan came about a week before federal leaders asked states to move people 65 and older to the front of the line, along with people with high-risk conditions. The state also opted out of a federal partnership to administer vaccines to long-term care residents and staff, working instead with local pharmacies.

And Justice is hopeful West Virginia can keep its vaccination momentum up.

Starting next week, he said vaccination clinics will be available in all 55 counties.

“They will receive a number of vaccine doses based on population,” the governor said. “This will make sure that our limited supply of Covid vaccines are reaching every corner of our state.”

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