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Health & Science

West Virginians 70 And Older Now Eligible For Vaccination, Following Federal Recommendations

Some of the world's largest vaccine-makers hope to bolster public confidence in a yet-to-arrive COVID-19 vaccine, pledging to follow strict safety protocols in the rush to respond to the pandemic. Here, a nurse practitioner administers a dose of flu vaccine in Key Biscayne, Fla.
Some of the world's largest vaccine-makers hope to bolster public confidence in a yet-to-arrive COVID-19 vaccine, pledging to follow strict safety protocols in the rush to respond to the pandemic. Here, a nurse practitioner administers a dose of flu vaccine in Key Biscayne, Fla.

The state has lowered its age of vaccine eligibility from 80 to 70 years and older, Gov. Jim Justice announced at a press conference Wednesday.

That age requirement could drop to 65 as early as next week, the governor added.

The state’s response comes after the Trump administration instructed states to push out more vaccine doses. Federal officials are calling on states to vaccinate anyone 65 and older and those with underlying conditions as soon as possible.

“As quickly as we know we're going to have that significant amount of vaccines that are going to give us the ability to go to 65, we're going to 65,” Justice said. “So we're going to follow the CDC guidelines as soon as I know we've got the vaccines.”

More than 100,000 initial doses of the vaccine have been administered in West Virginia, according to data from the state’s Department of Health and Human Resources. Justice said that accounts for more than 75,000 people who have received an injection, but that number could be much higher due to a data lag. Justice said the state administered almost 10,000 in a 24-hour window.

Under the CDC’s new guidelines, the feds hope to push out more vaccines to states with higher elderly and at-risk populations.

Gov. Justice said the state received another 35,000 doses Wednesday, and he’s hoping for more.

“The CDC is saying over and over and over, we want to send more vaccines to the people that are demonstrating that they're getting in people's arms. That's our entire strategy,” Justice said.

During the press conference, Gov. Justice repeated the successes of the state’s vaccine rollout. He wants West Virginia to bask in that spotlight.

“Little ole West Virginia, there was thought of for years, hundreds of years, as the place where maybe we were backward or dark or dingy,” Justice said. “At the end of the day, West Virginians are so good, so smart, so innovative.”

West Virginia COVID-19 czar Dr. Clay Marsh agreed, saying “Right now our country and our world needs role models, and West Virginia has been that.”

 

Justice has appeared on national news outlets, such as CNBC, for the state’s impressive vaccine rollout. West Virginia’s per capita rate of vaccine distribution is one of the best in the nation, according to CDC data.

Justice suggested local and state reporters haven’t given that story it’s due time.

One topic Justice did not want to focus on was Trump. West Virginia’s Homeland Security Advisor Tom Kirk spoke at the press conference, saying his agency has not encountered any credible threats leveled against the state capitol ahead of local and national inaugurations. He says he has spoken with state police, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, FBI and other agencies.

“To say that, that we have no credible threats in our region doesn't mean that we're not remaining vigilant. In fact, just the opposite,” Kirk said.

Justice says the state will soon have more information on mobile vaccine clinics and financial assistance for renters and landlords.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the state reported 1,671 people in West Virginia have died from Covid-19.


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