Health care workers at hospitals and nursing homes throughout the Morgantown area began receiving COVID-19 vaccinations Tuesday while the number of deaths in West Virginia associated with COVID-19 rose above 1,000.
David Goldberg, president and CEO of Mon Health, said first-line staff — those who work directly with COVID-19 patients — were being vaccinated Tuesday.
“We will work our way out and continue to monitor the situation,” he said.
The state Department of Health and Human Resources reported 34 more COVID-19-related deaths Tuesday, including an 86-year-old female from Monongalia County and a 78-year-old male from Taylor County.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said health care workers who are exposed to COVID-19 will receive the first vaccines because of the role they play in keeping hospitals open. Also, staff and patients of nursing homes — which account for 40% of the COVID-19 deaths — will also be among the first to receive the vaccines.
The Food and Drug Administration approved the virus vaccine Friday.
Dr. Carl Shrader, medical director of Sundale Rehabilitation and Long Term Care in Morgantown, where many of the state’s first COVID-19 cases were diagnosed, said with the assistance of West Virginia University’s Pharmacy School, they are vaccinating 180 people. This includes 80 patients and 100 staff members.
“This is a tremendous day for Sundale and our community,” said Shrader, who is also a WVU physician. “We are thankful for the support and for being selected as the first wave of vaccines to be administered.”
The Monongalia County Health Department reported it received doses of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Tuesday and began vaccinating employees and EMS staff who have direct contact with members of the public.
Dr. Lee B. Smith, MCHD executive director and county health officer, said in a press release he expects to be able to give the general public vaccinations soon.
The vaccines are given in the upper arm, similar to influenza vaccines, the release said. They will be free to individuals, although MCHD will attempt to defray costs by charging Medicare, Medicaid or insurance for administration fees.
It has been reported the federal government is paying the cost for each vaccine through 2021.
Overall, West Virginia is expected to get 17,000 doses this week and 110,000 doses by the end of the year, enough to vaccinate 6.1% of the state’s population, The Washington Post reported. The rest of the state should get the vaccine by March, Gov. Jim Justice said Monday.
In addition, Justice called for weekly testing of college students in an effort to curb the surge of new cases in the state.