West Virginia may complete nursing home vaccinations even sooner than expected

West Virginia is aiming to complete vaccinations at long-term care facilities even sooner than originally anticipated, possibly by this coming Monday.

The speedy scenario was made possible by a productive first week of vaccinations.

Originally, officials thought they could administer about 6,000 vaccinations at 48 facilities around West Virginia. Preliminary numbers show the week one effort actually wound up closer to 8,100 doses at 71 facilities.

Marty Wright

“The progress that was made during Week 1 was terrific,” said Marty Wright, chief executive of the West Virginia Health Care Association, which represents long-term care facilities.

“I think we’re going to make good progress to get everything done within the coming week.”

West Virginia broke from a national plan to lean on pharmacy giants CVS and Walgreens to administer vaccines. Those companies weren’t planning to start vaccinations at nursing homes until today because they were taking some extra time to get organized. One of the big complications for the drive to vaccinate at nursing homes is making sure consent forms have been completed, sometimes by residents’ legal guardians.

West Virginia instead has used a network of regional and local pharmacies, allowing the state to get a jump on the effort.

“West Virginia did a different track. They aggressively said we’re going to use the best and brightest of West Virginia, and we’re going to utilize our local pharmacies and we’re going to do what West Virginians do, which is step up, go first and lead,” Wright said.

Wright said the first round of vaccinations at long-term care facilities could be accomplished by Dec. 28, which is next Monday.

That’s a big change from an initial West Virginia plan to complete the effort within 30 days. That plan was then speeded up to a three-week goal. Now the state might exceed that, too.

“It is very much possible that when other states are not going online or not doing their first shots until the beginning of the week of the 28th, we could be just finishing up the last big of residents and staff in the state of West Virginia,” Wright said today on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”

Every moment counts. State leaders have attributed about half of covid-related deaths to nursing home residents. In recent weeks, West Virginia has counted more than 100 outbreaks at long-term care facilities.

Gov. Jim Justice

Gov. Jim Justice agreed that West Virginia anticipates finishing with long-term care facilities by next Monday. During a briefing today, the governor said he wants to be first in the country to get nursing home residents and staff vaccinated.

“We may be finishing our vaccine to long-term care facilities before others even start,” he said.

Justice touted a ranking by Bloomberg at COVID Vaccine Tracker that shows West Virginia leading the nation so far in the rate of covid-19 vaccine distribution and administration.

By Sunday afternoon, West Virginia had administered 15,046 doses during the first week of availability for Pfizer’s vaccine. That was out of 16,575 doses received, which is a 90.78 percent administration rate.

By now, the state has administered even more of its allotment.

“We’re administering the vaccines as quickly as we get ’em,” Justice said during a briefing today.

West Virginia was receiving a smaller allotment of Pfizer vaccine this week than originally anticipated. But the new arrival of a similar vaccine by Moderna today will more than make up the difference.

Between Moderna and Pfizer, Justice says 44,000 doses coming to West Virginia this week.

Dr. Clay Marsh

Coronavirus response coordinator Clay Marsh again vouched for the safety and effectiveness of both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

“It’s really important that every West Virginian, when it’s your turn to get vaccinated, stands up and does so,” Marsh said.

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