“Our interagency task force has to support all 55 counties in the state of West Virginia, not just a couple.”
That, in part, is how Joint Interagency Task Force for COVID-19 Vaccines Director James Hoyer responded Friday when asked why JITF planned to divert roughly half of the Monongalia County Health Department’s vaccine doses to other counties until the week of March 15.
The MCHD learned on Wednesday that it would be temporarily cut from 786 weekly doses of the Pfizer vaccine to 390 doses.
Those doses will be diverted to counties that have fallen below the state average in administering first-dose shots to their 65-and-over population.
“Why are we balancing the load? Let’s go back to just six names that the governor announced today,” Hoyer said, referencing the fact that there had been only six COVID-19 deaths in the state since Wednesday. “That’s a 72% reduction in loss of life that we’ve had in the first six weeks.”
Hoyer went on to say, “We know that we have 28 counties that have an imbalance and we have a number of people over the age of 65 in those counties that we must get vaccines to.”
He said all 55 counties now have vaccine distribution systems in place.
Asked if the state planned to provide additional support for the counties receiving the influx of doses, he again pointed to the data, which puts West Virginia among the best in the world at distributing the vaccine.
“I go back to look at the numbers each week and the track record of West Virginia in getting shots in arms. We’re clearly providing the level of support at the local level that we need to to get the shots in the arms,” Hoyer said.
Gov. Jim Justice said the state has administered 469,191 shots (including both first and second doses) so far. About 42% of the state’s 65-and-older population, or 160,939 people, have received at least a first dose.
Justice went on to say that it looks as if vaccination efforts will be bolstered in the coming days as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine comes online.
According to Hoyer, the state could receive as many as 15,500 shots of the single-dose vaccine by late next week if the approval process proceeds as expected.
“If this comes to pass, next week our total doses in West Virginia should approach 60,000. That’s great, great news and we’re ready for it. Send them on. Just keep sending them,” Justice said.
Lastly, Monongalia County is among a handful of counties from which the state is urging more residents to preregister for vaccination through vaccinate.wv.gov.