West Virginia has made admirable progress delivering Covid-19 vaccinations to the state’s residents, but now the number of individuals getting shots has slowed significantly.
The number of daily doses administered dropped to just over 4,000 last week, down from nearly 10,000 earlier this month and a peak of just under 17,000 a day at the end of March.
Governor Jim Justice sounded frustrated during Monday’s pandemic briefing when discussing the slowdown, saying some who refuse the vaccine are “hardheaded.”
“There’s some people out there—and bless their hearts, I love them with all my soul—we all have the right to decide, but I really am a firm believer that we don’t have the right to decide when it could endanger someone else.”
A poll by Kaiser Health News released last month found that 13 percent of all respondents say they will “definitely not” be vaccinated. “Republicans and evangelical Christians were most likely to say they will not get vaccinated, with almost 30 percent of each group saying they will definitely not get a shot.
The poll found that their most common reason was that the vaccines “are too new and not enough information is known about the long-term effects.” Additionally, people who live in rural areas are less likely to be vaccinated.
West Virginia is not alone. There has been a general slowdown after an initial rush by individuals to get shots, according to Lori Tremel Freeman, CEO of the National Association of County and City Health Officials.
“We’re reaching the point where we’re getting to the hard audiences,” Freeman told CNN. “The ones that either are unsure or on the fence about the vaccine, don’t have enough information or are just plain outright… not interested in the vaccine for other reasons.”
Still, the country and West Virginia have reached a milestone.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Monday that half of all U.S. adults have received at least one shot. West Virginia is keeping pace. The CDC figures show 51 percent of vaccine-eligible individuals (16+) in the state have received at least one shot.
West Virginia has done a remarkable job given the extremely complicated logistics of delivering nearly 1.2 million doses so far. The effort has been aided by the demand; West Virginians who wanted shots signed up and lined up to get them.
In some ways, the challenge of getting shots in arms is even more difficult now because the demand has waned. State Covid-19 Czar Dr. Clay Marsh said the slowdown in shots combined with the rise in virus variants is a concern.
“This is not to scare people, but it is a call to arms,” Marsh said.
Dealing with the pandemic has been a marathon, and it feels as though we are nearing the finish line. However, these last miles are going to be difficult, especially if a large percentage of individuals in West Virginia and across the country decide they will not be vaccinated.