CHARLESTON — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said Friday he’s optimistic the availability of COVID-19 vaccines will ramp up significantly in coming weeks.“I really do believe there will be a day coming in the near future when the vaccines will be so abundant we can really make a dent in getting everyone vaccinated,” Justice said during the state COVID-19 briefing.
Justice made those comments one day after President Joe Biden announced his administration has finalized a deal for 200 million more doses of Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, enough to meet his goal of vaccinating 300 million Americans by the end of July. Justice and state officials said they have not been apprised of how much that will increase allocations to West Virginia, or when, but said doses will be ramping up through other programs.
Previously, state officials had been notified to expect the state allocation to increase from about 28,800 doses a week to just over 30,000 doses a week.
Also, interagency task force director James Hoyer said the 73 Walgreens pharmacies in the state will receive 7,300 doses a week beginning this weekend through a national program to distribute 1 million doses of vaccine through chain pharmacies.
He said each Walgreens will use the state’s vaccination list, which residents can sign on to by visiting www.vaccinate.wv.gov, and will contact recipients.
Hoyer said that, as of the time of Friday’s briefing, he had not been apprised as to when the state would see a ramp-up from the 200 million doses.
“What we are focusing on right now is continuing to improve our distribution process to be prepared when that happens,” he said.
He said the state currently has capacity to do more than 125,000 vaccinations a week, if and when allotments reach that level. Justice noted a third COVID-19 vaccine, produced by Johnson & Johnson, should be receiving FDA approval shortly.
Biden has made a priority of ramping up the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations after inheriting a depleted program when he took office in January.
“When I became president three weeks ago, America had no plan to vaccinate most of the country,” Biden said Thursday. “It was a big mess. It is going to take time to fix, to be blunt with you.”
Until then, Justice called on West Virginians to remain vigilant and continue to practice mask wearing and social distancing.
“The mountain is always steepest at the top,” Justice said. “It’s no time to drop your guard. It’s no time to celebrate yet.”