How West Virginia Turned a Prime State for Covid Vaccine Administration: Governor Jim Justice
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice on Monday touted the state’s strategy for distributing coronavirus vaccines, specifically the emphasis on giving senior residents the highest priority.
“We don’t have vaccines in a warehouse on a shelf,” Justice said on CNBC’s Squawk on the Street. “Today we have 100% of the vaccines we received … either in the arms of the people or have a name for the vaccine that they are going to get and that they are going to get in the next few days. What we need now in West Virginia , we need more vaccines. “
West Virginia has one of the best per capita vaccination rates in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state vaccinated 5,376 people per 100,000 residents on Monday afternoon. That puts South Dakota’s 5,451 vaccinations per 100,000 population and CDC data just behind.
West Virginia has administered 71.8% of vaccine doses received, according to the Bloomberg Covid-19 Vaccine Tracker. This is the first among the 50 states, according to Bloomberg, with North Dakota and South Dakota ranking second and third at 68.3% and 64.9%, respectively. In the US, a total of 36.5% of the distributed doses were given per Bloomberg.
Justice pointed to West Virginia’s vaccination program for severely affected long-term care facilities as the primary driver of the state’s governance. West Virginia relied heavily on its National Guard and a network of local pharmacies to manage the shots, Justice explained. This allowed the state to get going last month before the CDC’s federal vaccination program for long-term care facilities officially began.
“We are now the first to vaccinate all residents and employees of our nursing home and our assisted living,” said Justice.
The state has now set up Covid vaccination centers for members of the public who are 80 years and older. The vaccine will also be introduced to K-12 teachers and staff 50 and over. “This is all about age and age and age,” Justice said, alluding to the coronavirus’ disproportionate impact on older Americans. “That’s just all.”
According to Justice, West Virginia was aware of the logistical challenges that distributing vaccinations on this scale would pose, while also being very aware of the toll Covid was taking on its state.
“I said this to our National Guard, and I said this to our leading medical experts,” We are going to become aware of the fact that we are trying to develop a plan for how the vaccines should be given and as we develop a plan, people dying, people are dying everywhere, “Justice said.
Because of this, the planning teams tried to keep their strategy simple. “If I were to say, ‘How many cows are there in this field? … Don’t count the legs and divide them by four. Just count the cows,” Justice said.
“We responded to the fact that we would have vaccines on the shelf,” he added. “And we responded to the fact that age, age, age pushed this and these were the people who die and we came after that really aggressively.”