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Monongalia County’s COVID-19 vaccine doses to be temporarily halved

MORGANTOWN — Fundamentally unfair, counterintuitive and counterproductive.

That is how the Monongalia County Commission described a state decision to temporarily reduce by half the number of COVID-19 vaccine doses coming to the Monongalia County Health Department.

The commission said the MCHD was notified of the change on Wednesday by the WV Joint Inter-agency Task Force for COVID-19 Vaccines, or JIATF.  

According to a Thursday letter from the commission to Gov. Jim Justice, about 50% of the county’s doses will be diverted to counties that “have not been as productive or efficient in vaccinating their citizens.”

Commission President Sean Sikora said the body wanted to reach out to Justice to see if he was aware of the temporary change in allocation and ask how it squares with some of his recent talking points.  

The commission wrote, “Sending vaccines to sites with poor track records or inability to effectively administer sufficient doses in WV is ironic given your very public comments on how vaccines are being sent to other states, such as New York, that are inefficient and wasteful with their vaccines.”

The letter goes on to note the MCHD has been receiving 768 doses (128 vials) of the Pfizer vaccine, but will now receive 390 doses (65 vials) until the week of March 15. 

This, according to an email from a JIATF member provided to The Dominion Post, is based on “the proportion of 65+ that we have vaccinated in each county and the need to vaccinate the remaining of that population in each county.”   

The email states that there are 28 counties below the state average for first-dose shots and says that counties that have successfully vaccinated the 65-and-older population will be reduced to boost, or second-shot, orders for the next two weeks. 

The MCHD is one of 28 county clinics that receives Pfizer vaccines. The other 27 receive Moderna, based on the March 1-7 distribution list.

In its letter, the commission states it’s not interested in pitting counties against one another, just as it’s not interested in its residents being penalized because Monongalia County created the state’s first and most efficient “super vaccination center.”  

“While we are currently competing against for-profit pharmacies, who get thousands of doses each week, we find that life-saving doses are being reduced because of inefficiencies in over half the counties in our state. While we are told that this is not penalization, that is a difficult argument to sell to our constituents.”

Late last month, WVU Medicine, Mon Health System, the Monongalia County Health Department and the Monongalia County Commission announced the creation of a vaccination center, in the former Morgantown Mall Sears store.  

Sikora said that the center has the capacity to administer 8,000 vaccines a day, but isn’t coming anywhere near those numbers due to the overall lack of available doses.

Further reducing those doses, he said, is bad for everyone.

“We don’t serve just Mon County citizens here. We serve the whole region,” Sikora said. “We just feel like this is a move that’s not in the best interest of our citizens or the state, and we felt like we should address it.”

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