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Health & Science

County Health Administrators Rise To Vaccine Delivery Challenges in Southern WV

Students_MercerCOVIDVaccine.jpg
Jessica Lilly
Phlebotomy students help to prepare and administer COVID-19 vaccines in Mercer County on January 7, 2021.

County health department administrators in West Virginia are meeting daily to determine their next steps to getting West Virginians vaccinated as more doses become available and the state plan expands.

Administrators in Southern West Virginia say this statewide coordination effort has helped them to receive information quickly, even as it is evolving weekly with new groups like teachers included in vaccination groups.

Chad Meador, administrator of the Summers County Health Department, said after the state gives the orders, county departments, pharmacies, clinics and other medical establishments have two days to obtain the vaccines. COVID 19 vaccines are kept at five hubs across the state, including at the Osteopathic School of Medicine in neighboring Greenbrier County.

We either have it delivered to us from one of the five hubs across the state by the West Virginia National Guard, or we go pick it up,” Meador said. “We elect to go pick it up.”

Officials say there have been some hiccups along the way across the region such as unorganized lines in Mercer County during the first day of public vaccination for those who are 80 years or older. Mercer officials moved things to a larger facility and called on local law enforcement to help with traffic.

In Summers County, Meador says the original challenge was simply having enough vaccines. After vaccinating residents who had made requests, the county was left with about 50 so they opened a community vaccination clinic. It was supposed to start at the Hinton Freight Depot at 11 a.m.

“I got there at 7:30 a.m. because something told me to just get there early,” Meador said. “People were already there. I had directed my staff to be there at 9 a.m. to begin just the planning process going over things.”

By 9:40 a.m. there were already 50 people in line. Meador says they probably turned away 75 to 100 people.

“That was very promising because I guess the silver lining for that day was it told me how many people really wanted the vaccine,” Meador said. “I think that's going to continue, as the days move forward.”

Managing the unexpected during COVID-19 vaccination efforts was expected, but Meador says it comes with the mission of public health.

“We've responded to many crises throughout the years,” Meador said. “In Summers County we have a flood it seems like every five years so. We are called, we stop what we're doing and we take care of it. We’re not necessarily primed and ready for a pandemic but we have a staff here who's just equipped.

He added: “When you come into public health, you're wanting to help people, and it kind of gets in your blood. We feel like it's our task to do that. And we're going to see it through.”

County health departments right now are focused on providing vaccines to people 80 years or older in the general population. According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources website, professionals such as frontline workers and educators also have early access. Information about those vaccines should be attained through their employers.


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