West Virginia vaccinations slow down as fewer step forward

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice celebrates his reelection at The Greenbrier Resort, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. Justice and his staff are being tested for the coronavirus after a staffer in the capitol building tested positive on Friday, Nov. 6. Justice says he was tested minutes before a noon press conference where he announced a record 540 new coronavirus cases in the past day. (AP Photo/Chris Jackson)

By CUNEYT DIL Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia’s coronavirus vaccination drive is slowing down as fewer people come forward to get shots, the governor said Friday.

The administration rate of vaccine supply in the state is about 85%, down from higher figures early in the year when the state momentarily led the nation in most people vaccinated.

“That is incredibly low as a percentage,” Republican Gov. Jim Justice said at a news conference. “And I will promise you state after state is running significantly ahead of us, because we don’t have arms to get it in people right now.”

All five states that border West Virginia now have a higher rate of doses administered per 100,000 residents, according to federal data.

State data show that 38.1% of the state’s 1.78 million residents have received at least one vaccine dose. Nearly 27% are fully inoculated against the virus that has killed 2,777 people so far in West Virginia.

The current situation is a far cry from two months ago, when demand for vaccines in the Mountain State outstripped supply and the governor was pleading to the federal government to receive more doses. Officials claimed they could administer 125,000 shots a week.

“We continue to have plenty of availability of vaccines,” said James Hoyer, a retired major general leading the state’s coronavirus task force. “It takes us longer each week to get those vaccines in arms not because of the logistics, but because of people getting to those vaccines.”

The state is hosting vaccination events for businesses, churches and clubs. Those interested in requesting a clinic can call the state hotline at 1-833-734-0965.

Vaccine eligibility opened up to all residents aged 16 and over a month ago.

Justice acknowledged a divide in the U.S. between conservative and liberal states on vaccine progress. “There are more people in red states that are hesitant,” he said. “We really need to be listening to the experts.”

A high school girls basketball coach, Justice said he was “dumbfounded” to learn that no one on his team took up the offer to be vaccinated when recently offered. Then he said a freshman was diagnosed with COVID-19.

West Virginia has followed the federal recommendation to pause the use of Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine regimen after six cases of a rare blood clotting issue were discovered. Officials have said they have not found such a case in the state, and urged people to take shots from Moderna and Pfizer, which both require two doses.

Justice has aimed to dispel myths and rumors about the vaccine during his regularly scheduled news conference. On a recent afternoon outside his apartment building, Charleston resident Michael O’Farrell, 77, said taking a shot was a “no brainer” for him after growing up in the era of the polio vaccine.

He said those hesitant should see it as a sort of citizen’s obligation. “You have to ask, what about my loved ones? Is it ethical that I’m going to decide I’m going to pose a risk to other people? And I think the answer is no.”


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