As states around the country struggle to distribute and administer COVID-19 vaccines to healthcare workers and the older population in long-term care facilities, West Virginia is leading the nation in both areas, with its immunization rate for these groups at almost 100 percent.
“Right now, we’re at 98.1 percent, as far as vaccines in people’s arms or names tied to it, you know, that are going to be put into people’s arms immediately,” West Virginia Governor Jim Justice told “Face the Nation” on Jan. 17.
“We’re saving all kinds of lives. We’re putting our kids back in school. West Virginia has been the diamond in the rough that a lot of people have missed,” he added.
The state has administered both doses of the vaccine to a total of 146,937 people as of Jan. 15, with an administration rate of 93.7 percent for the first dose and an 80 percent for the second, according to a press release. The state has a population of around 1.8 million.
Meanwhile, the more populous state of Texas, with a population of some 29 million, has distributed just over 2 million doses and administered just under 1.2 million, as of Jan. 18, the CDC stated. California, with 39.5 million people, has distributed more than 3.5 million doses and administered just under 1.1 million.
Justice, a Republican, credits West Virginia’s successful vaccine rollout to its “regional community vaccination approach” that has been working with local pharmacies and health departments, with help from the National Guard.
“A lot of governors sat on their hands trying to come up with a system or a formula of what they were going to do. We didn’t sit on our hands. I mean, we acted,” he said. “We brought our local pharmacies in. We brought our local, you know, health departments in. We brought our National Guard in, and we started putting shots in people’s arms because this thing is all about age, age, age.”
West Virginia is the only state to not participate in the federal program that relies heavily on vaccines being administered by national chains like Walgreens and CVS. Justice says that’s because “there are so many people that depend on their local health departments [and] their local pharmacies.”
The state also became the first to finish offering the vaccine to the staff and residents of all the 214 nursing homes and assisted living facilities before the end of December 2020.
In that same month, 42 people were mistakenly injected with an antibody cocktail instead of a vaccine at a clinic in Boone County. All of the people were immediately given the COVID-19 vaccine and no adverse reactions were reported due to the error.
More than 31 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been distributed nationwide, but only over 12 million Americans have received the injection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says.