West Virginia prepares for coronavirus vaccine distributions

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Joint Interagency Task Force that will be key to distributions of coronavirus vaccines in West Virginia is now up and running with emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for at least two vaccines expected this month.

“We feel pretty comfortable we’re doing well and we’re at the point where we need to be right now,” said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, adjutant general for the West Virginia National Guard.

Maj. Gen. James Hoyer

He talked about the vaccine plans during an appearance on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline,” a day after a task force kickoff meeting.

On Tuesday, members of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices were meeting to establish U.S. vaccine priority recommendations for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As many as 40 million doses, enough for 20 million people since pending vaccines from both Pfizer and Moderna require two doses, could be available before the end of year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources.

FDA approval for the Pfizer vaccine may come as early as Dec. 10 with Moderna approval prior to Christmas.

Once approvals are finalized, Maj. Gen. Hoyer said vaccines could start being moved to states within 24 hours.

“States will do it differently,” he said. “Some states will push it directly to hospitals. Some states will go to the county level. We believe that we’re putting together the approach that’s best for West Virginia.”

In general, West Virginia will have a series of primary sites for vaccine distributions — hubs and sub-hubs — supplying different parts of the Mountain State.

Some of those sites could be at hospitals, medical schools or even bases for the West Virginia Air National Guard to allow for shipment by air, if necessary.

Under West Virginia’s tentative vaccination plan, hospital employees, nursing home staff members, EMS workers and other first responders would be the first to get shots, according to Hoyer.

“We’re going to be focusing on those to reduce our fatality rate, protect our most vulnerable citizens and to keep our healthcare system up and running because of the nature of the health issues we have in West Virginia,” he said.

A tabletop distribution exercise for the Joint Interagency Task Force was planned for Thursday.

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