West Virginia wanted a vaccine surge from the federal government, but that’s in doubt

After national reports Friday that the federal government actually has no vaccine reserve to help states with a surge, Gov. Jim Justice lamented that it’s difficult to judge what the national supply will allow from week to week.

“The only way I’m going to be able to clarify it is by saying I don’t really know,” Justice said during a late Friday afternoon briefing.

Justice said that, at one point, West Virginia had expected to receive about 60,000 doses next week. That would have been about 25,000 additional doses.

“We were told that. We were told point blank we were going to get right at 60,000 doses next week. Now I’m hearing that maybe the additional 25,000 they don’t have them.

“That may very well change in two hours. That’s what’s happening.”

Justice has proudly declared in recent days that West Virginia has either provided all the vaccine doses it has available or, alternatively, has a specific recipient named on a list. He has indicated that urgency could help the state press its case with the federal government for greater supply.

Meanwhile, local health departments have reported waiting lists of hundreds of people who want to be vaccinated while phones continue to ring off the hook.

State leaders have acknowledged that the supply of vaccine available is far less than optimal.

Federal officials just this week had announced that doses originally held in reserve for second shots instead would be released. But today The Washington Post first reported that there is no reserve after all. Instead, vaccines originally intended to be second doses were shipped right off the manufacturing line last month.

That means states that had expected a boost to their available vaccines instead will have a flat supply.

“I’ve got to continue to try with all in me to get our numbers increased,” Justice said.

Justice, during today’s briefing, appeared to learn the recent developments in the middle of answering a question about it.

He initially said West Virginia had been promised 25,000 more doses than usual.

“We asked for way more than that. We asked for 110,000,” he said.

But partway through first addressing the question, he looked to the side and indicated he was trying to understand something his staff was trying to tell him.

He then said, “What we were told was next week we were going to get double the amount of vaccine. It all changes. In ten minutes it’ll change again.”

West Virginia today reported 124,325 vaccinations have been administered.

The state reported 22,612 people fully vaccinated, meaning they have received a second dose.

Justice spoke with pride about West Virginia’s 93.7 percent administration rate for all first doses.

“West Virginia continues to lead the nation,” he said. “When we get the vaccines in on Monday come Sunday nightfall, we’re trying with all in us to not have one single vaccine on the shelf.”

But the governor said, “We can only give you the vaccines that we have. We continue to push the federal government.”

He announced a few days ago that the state would make vaccines available for residents 70 and over.

Today, the governor expanded eligibility to people ages 65 and older. Justice said that’s in line with new federal recommendations.

“I don’t want them to hold up the number of vaccines they’re sending out because we didn’t follow their lead,” Justice said.

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