West Virginia’s efforts to vaccinate against Covid-19 have paid off… so far.
Figures from the state Department of Health and Human Resources show that the state’s older population is well on its way to herd immunity. Seventy-seven percent of those 65 and older are fully vaccinated, while 87 percent of that same group has received at least one dose.
The vaccination numbers for the total population are improving, but we still have a way to go. Forty-seven percent of the state’s 1.8 million people are fully vaccinated and 65 percent of those 12 and older have received at least one dose.
However, West Virginia, after starting out ahead of every other state in vaccinations, has fallen back in the pack. Our state’s total vaccination number is about even with the national average.
The challenge here, and in many other states, is getting shots in arms of most of the rest of the population.
The vaccination rate in West Virginia has slowed dramatically. About 850 shots a day were administered from June 28 through July 2. At that rate, it would take about a year to have vaccinated 65 percent of the state’s population to begin to approach herd immunity.
Meanwhile, Governor Jim Justice and state Covid-19 Czar Clay Marsh are growing increasingly concerned about the Delta variant. Only a handful of cases have been reported in West Virginia, but officials are wary because of what is happening in Missouri, where hospital are again filling up with Covid patients.
The lagging vaccination numbers indicate that the vast majority of West Virginians who want to get vaccinated have gotten their shots, and there is not much anyone can say or do to convince everyone else to get theirs.
Those reluctant to get vaccinated say they do not believe that the vaccine is safe, and they do not trust the officials who are encouraging them to get vaccinated. They also say it is a personal decision whether to get vaccinated.
Governor Justice, during an appearance on Talkline Wednesday, said he is “super respectful” an individual’s right to choose, but he also issued a warning. “If they choose not to take the vaccine, then I think they are running a hell of a risk, but at the end of the day if they choose not to take the vaccine, that’s their prerogative.”
So not much is going to change unless and until the conditions shift, and they might if the Delta variant or another variant of Covid catches on here. Justice said during an interview with ABC last weekend that a “catastrophe” in which “an awful lot of people die” would send people rushing to get shots.
Justice naturally hopes that that does not happen, but his observations are indicative of the situation West Virginia now finds itself in with the pandemic. We all want to be finished with the pandemic, and hopefully there will not be another surge.
However, as one health official told me, “We’re not done with Covid until Covid is done with us.”