W.Va. Governor Shares Phased Plan For COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation
This article was updated on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, to include an update from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice shared new details on Friday about the state’s allocation plan for the coronavirus vaccine.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted pharmaceutical company Pfizer emergency use authorization for its coronavirus vaccine, hours after Justice and described the first phase of his administration's distribution plan.
Based on estimates from the federal government, Justice said the state would receive its first round of doses within 24 hours of the FDA’s approval.
“The rollout of our COVID-19 vaccination program will be challenging, it’ll take a lot of work,” Justice said during a regularly scheduled press briefing. “But, without any question, between the [West Virginia] National Guard and all the players that are working with them, they'll get this done.”
The state is slated to receive an initial allocation of 60,000 doses of the vaccine from Pfizer, according to the governor's office. Justice said Friday that the state also will receive 32,600 doses from Moderna, another pharmaceutical company with a vaccine that the FDA will first review later this month.
According to the numbers Justice shared Friday — he acknowledged several times the possibility that the data could change — it will take about six weeks to vaccinate all of West Virginia’s health care workers and other essential employees, who make up the first phase of the governor’s allocation plan.
The first phase starts with long-term health care workers and hospital employees, who are at the highest risk. Next, Justice said the vaccine will go to infrastructure workers, emergency responders, at-home health care workers, teachers and other frontline employees working critical jobs in transportation and utility.
Justice said he hopes to begin vaccinating members of the general population by the second or third week of March 2021.
“We will place initial emphasis on the most vulnerable in the general population based on the guidance of CDC,” Justice said. The CDC has identified the most vulnerable groups as the elderly, those with compromised immune systems and others with pre-existing health conditions.
“I think it's extremely well planned, I think it will be very efficient, and I think it will be very equitable,” said Todd Karpinski, chief pharmacy officer for WVU Medicine. “Every health care worker will be highly encouraging, not only to our own staff, but to patients out there, to get vaccinated when their time comes [and] when there's enough vaccine to go around.”
Maj. Gen. James Hoyer of the West Virginia National Guard, who the governor has charged with managing the vaccine’s logistical rollout, has described the geographical challenges of distributing vaccines to people scattered all over the mostly rural, mountainous state.
On Friday, coronavirus czar Clay Marsh said it’s time to address a new challenge to public health officials: misinformation.
“There is a false claim that's been going around social media sites, which I want to make sure that we address, that this vaccine has a potential to make women sterile or infertile. And that's just false,” Marsh said.
An FDA analysis earlier this week confirmed to public health officials that the vaccine most likely is effective, while also confirming a few side effects, including fatigue, muscle pains, chills and fever.
Emily Allen is a Report for America corps member.