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County vaccine numbers ahead of the curve, but largely stalled

MORGANTOWN — What started as a sprint has become a slog.

That, in a nutshell, sums up COVID-19 vaccination efforts across the country.

Monongalia County’s vaccination numbers are tracking ahead of both state and national averages, but just like everywhere else, they’ve hit a wall.

“I don’t want to waive the flag and claim victory in this moment because we’ve done the low-hanging fruit, if you’ll forgive the analogy,” Monongalia County Health Officer Lee Smith said. “For us to go from zero to 40% inoculation was easy. To go from 40% to 42% has been a heavy lift. For us to get to 45% will probably kill us.”

Smith said the days of people lining up for shots have been replaced with a somewhat labor-intensive effort to track down individuals and deliver vaccines.

“We’ve gone out and done all the homebound people and we try to circle back to the Bartlett House every now and again. We’re working with food groups and such,” Smith said. “It’s a lot of effort for a little tiny bit of yield.”

According to data presented by Smith, a total of 77,714 shots have been administered in the county, though he said that number was probably closer to 80,000 by the time of his report.

The number of fully vaccinated county residents depends on who you ask. The state/county lists that number at 37,820. The CDC puts the number at 44,341.

Smith explained the discrepancy.

“So why is there a difference between these two numbers? That’s because the veteran’s administration, pharmacies, colleges and higher education, they don’t report to the state. They don’t report to us. We’re operating completely blindly,” he said.

Asked if those hesitant about receiving a vaccine were reaching out to the health department for information or answers, Smith said they are not.

“We’re not fielding questions with any frequency. We’re all in competition with Dr. Google. So why ask someone who is an expert when you can get completely false information online? I think that’s part of the problem,” he said, adding “You’ve got people who feel very strongly about this one way or another. We’ll not convince everybody. I just hope we get to some kind of herd immunity and go from there.”

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