MORGANTOWN — The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is expected to arrive in West Virginia sometime Dec. 10-12, Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday. The Moderna vaccine – which is still wrapping up clinical trials – should arrive shortly after, he said.
Next, week, he said, he’ll be issuing an order to set up the task force to distribute the vaccine.
Adjutant General James Hoyer said Justice has tasked what he termed the advisory council with two initial priorities regarding where to best administer the initial vaccines.
One is to mitigate fatalities. Because nursing homes account for about 44% to 50% of COVID-related deaths at any given time, they are a first target, he said. Health care workers will also be a first target, in order to maintain the integrity of the heal”h care system.
“It is a complicated vaccine to distribute,” he said of the Pfizer vaccine. It has to be stored a -94 degrees Farenheit and when it arrives the doses will have to be broken down. (The Moderna vaccine must be stored at only -4 degrees.)
Justice and his team again took a question about how many people will need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity (The Dominion Post asked this last week), as surveys show some public reluctance based on how effective it is.
Justice said, “We’ve got to encourage and encourage and encourage people to get the vaccine.” He’ll be publicly vaccinated when it’s available.
COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh said it’s important to create blocks in the person-to-person transmission chain. About 70% of the population will need to be immunized via vaccine or natural immunity from prior infection to reduce the spread.
Apart from preventing the spread, he said, the vaccine also serves to protect each person who receives it from infection. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have both proven to be about 95% effective.
The Dominion Post asked how much the vaccine will cost. Justice said the federal government is covering all the costs and individuals won’t see any charges.
Masks and schools
Last week, Justice discussed a special legislative session to enact penalties to enforce the mask order, expressing a reluctance to call one barring some public demand. Locally, a poll by The Dominion Post showed a large majority (it wasn’t unanimous) of legislators desiring a special session, although the Senate president doesn’t see a need for one.
The Dominion Post asked Wednesday if there’s been any demand.
Justice said he’s not aware of any; no calls have reached him if they’ve come to his office. But he also doesn’t want one.
“Why do we need that? We don’t want to penalize people. The last thing on earth we want to do is take somebody off to jail.”
Police and business owners know how to handle situations, he said. “Lets just get along with each other. Why in the world do we need to escalate things to a level beyond that?”
As previously announced, the school Thanksgiving break will extend through Dec.2 to allow for any holiday-based community spread to become apparent. But kids need to get back into the classrooms.
“Overwhelmingly, we’re really failing with virtual learning,” here and across the nation. Parents are essentially acting as substitute teachers.
Across the state, there are 24 school outbreaks with 106 positive cases. Given that there are about 250,000 kids and 40,000 staff, “I don’t know that there’s a place much safer period than in our schools.”
However, when asked, he didn’t express any interest in changing the color-coded School Alert System map to get more gets back into the buildings (right now, 10 counties are red and nine are orange on that map). Local control is better than central control from Charleston for those decisions, he said.
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