CHARLES TOWN – Gov. Jim Justice has been widely touting West Virginia’s ability to efficiently distribute coronavirus vaccines as a praiseworthy feat and a national model to emulate.
As of Tuesday, statewide 252,098 doses of vaccine have been dispensed, about 14 percent of the state’s population. That statistic included 144,250 for people who received a second booster shot to receive the fullest protection available against the virus.
This week Justice pointed out that the state has distributed 108 percent of all the vaccines it has received, where more doses have been extracted than expected from vials containing multiple doses.
“It’s incredible just how well we’re doing this—how well West Virginia is doing,” the governor recently said.
How vaccinations have been distributed to Jefferson County residents has been a question that has recently arisen. The answer hasn’t been quick to come by. State health officials were still working to obtain county by county vaccination data as of Tuesday afternoon.
With about 57,000 residents in Jefferson County, a distribution rate here that would equal the state’s 14 percent rate would calculate to about 8,000 vaccinations.
Dr. Terrence Reidy, the top health officer for the Jefferson County Health Department, reported Tuesday that 1,000 county residents had been vaccinated with at least one dose. But that figure only accounts for all of the vaccination the county health department has directly received and administered since December.
Reidy said he was confident hundreds more county residents—at this point, mostly people 80 or older—have been vaccinated through various state-controlled distribution points beyond the county health department’s knowledge.
West Virginia’s top-down vaccination rollout began early on at five regional distribution hubs. One hub set up in Martinsburg has served many Jefferson residents, Reidy said.
Meanwhile, many medical and hospital workers, nursing home residents and staff, and school employees are among those who have received immunizations provided directly from the state that the county health department can’t track, Reidy said.
Last month Jefferson County Schools officials said more than 750 teachers and school employees had received second rounds of vaccinations. Those vaccinations went directly to the school system, and not through the county health department.
WVU Medicine officials reported this week that 264 workers at Jefferson Medical Center in Ranson have received immunizations directly from the state.
The immunizations in the county to be accounted for include staff and residents at Jefferson’s three nursing homes that the health department doesn’t know about, Reidy said. County residents would also be included in the 5,700 vaccines given so far to military members and veterans at the Veterans Administration hospital in Martinsburg.
There are about 9,500 county residents who are 65 and older, Reidy reported. Of those, 2,500 people are on the health department’s waiting list to receive a vaccination. Those don’t include people who separately signed up to receive a vaccination on the state’s online registration system.
Reidy pointed out that the vaccine distribution rollout throughout West Virginia is still in an early stage. Smoothing out delivery systems and ramping up vaccine supplies is still underway.
More distribution sites will inevitably be established as more vaccine supply becomes available from manufacturers, Reidy said. A statewide arrangement with Walgreens drugstores announced last week adds another distribution outlet that is just gearing up.
“There’s a lot of considerations in how to do it,” he said of the vaccine distributions. “The state’s doing well. They’re getting it out.”
Nevertheless, Reidy said he wouldn’t be surprised if state officials report that some counties have received disproportionately more vaccinations than others, possibly including Jefferson County. But whenever any imbalances are identified, he added, they can then be quickly corrected.
“I suspect there will be times when the distribution will be unequal,” he said, “but over the months I expect it to be equal across the counties.”
“Hopefully, two months from now we’ve got huge amounts of vaccine,” he continued. “But right now, … there’s not enough.”