CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Coronavirus vaccines are now an option for West Virginia residents over the age of 70 and, by next week, state officials said that cutoff age could be dropped to 65, depending on dose availability, to comply with new federal guidance.
“We continue to move forward,” said James Hoyer, director of the Joint Interagency Task Force which is overseeing vaccine distributions in West Virginia.
Five weeks into vaccine rollouts, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised recommendations this week for vaccine distributions in an attempt to speed up the process.
That guidance now includes people over the age of 65, other people between the ages of 16 and 64 with underlying medical conditions and additional essential workers.
Earlier priorities for vaccinations were healthcare personnel, long-term care facility residents, frontline essential workers and people age 75 and older.
West Virginia has already been offering vaccine shots to people above age 80.
Beginning Wednesday, the age was dropped to 70.
“We’re going to push and push and push and, absolutely as quickly as we know we’re going to have that significant amount of vaccines that are going to give us the ability to go to 65, we’re going to 65,” said Governor Jim Justice during his Wednesday coronavirus briefing.
A series of vaccination clinics for people meeting the age requirement was scheduled through Sunday at 14 locations across West Virginia.
The full schedule and contact information for appointments was available HERE.
Dr. Clay Marsh, vice president and executive dean of health sciences at West Virginia University, said 77.5 percent of state residents who have died from COVID-19 have been older than 70.
“A vaccine in an arm may equal a life saved,” said Dr. Marsh.
Additionally, coming up on Thursday and Friday, James Hoyer, the director of the Joint Interagency Task Force, said 9,700 teachers and school service workers over the age of 50 would receive initial shots in all 55 counties.
School vaccinations started last week.
There was no projected date for vaccination starts for school employees under the age of 50.
Federal officials have indicated that states that don’t use their doses quickly will see cuts to future allocations.
“The CDC is saying over and over and over, ‘We want to send more vaccines to the people that are demonstrating that they’re getting it in people’s arms.’ That’s our entire strategy. That’s the entire goal,” Gov. Justice said.
On Wednesday morning, the state Department of Health and Human Resources reported 100,696 total vaccine doses, initial shots, had been given to West Virginians statewide out of 132,700 received for first doses.
Second doses administered added up to 16,343 out of 28,275 delivered thus far.
On Tuesday, 34,960 additional vaccine doses were delivered to West Virginia.
On the Bloomberg COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker, West Virginia was at 5.98 doses per 100 people at the start of Wednesday, the highest rate in the United States.