CHARLESTON — With West Virginia unable to receive anywhere close to the 125,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine that it could administer each week, Gov. Jim Justice bemoaned Friday that millions of doses are, in his words, sitting in warehouses in other states.
“Other than me just going up there and sitting on somebody, we’re doing everything we can on all fronts,” Justice said of efforts to get additional vaccine doses from federal authorities.
He said West Virginia has been receiving fewer than 24,000 doses a week, an amount he said the Biden administration has pledged to increase to close to 30,000 doses beginning next week.
While West Virginia has regularly been exceeding 100% administration of first doses received — made possible by being able to extract an extra sixth dose from most vials of the Pfizer vaccine — Justice said the state is not being rewarded for being efficient, while many states are lagging in getting vaccines administered.
“There are states with hundreds of thousands or millions of (doses of) vaccines that are not in somebody’s arm. They’re in the warehouses,” he said.
Despite an administration rate that is among the highest in the U.S., the lack of doses makes getting a majority of West Virginians vaccinated a daunting task.
Justice pointed out Friday that in the first month of a state program to vaccinate residents who are age 65 or older, a total of 108,286 seniors have received a first vaccination and 34,288 have gotten their second shot.
However, with a 65 and older population in excess of 375,000, that works out to about 30% of the age group having received a first shot and just 9% getting both shots.
Dr. Clay Marsh, vice president for health sciences at West Virginia University and state COVID-19 czar, said Friday that the pending approval of a third vaccine, produced by Johnson & Johnson, should help increase total amounts of COVID-19 vaccine doses received by the state.
“This will give us another vaccine to include in our armamentarium,” Marsh said. An armamentarium is the combined resources of medicines, equipment and medical techniques available to a physician or medical provider.
Also during Friday’s COVID-19 briefing:
- Justice walked back a memorandum sent to cabinet secretaries and department heads Thursday that, in its initial form, directed all state employees working remotely to return to their workplaces.
That was followed a few hours later by a revised memo giving department heads the discretion to determine on a case-by-case basis whether employees should return to the workplace or continue to work remotely.
“I don’t know how we got upside down in what we were asking people,” Justice said of the initial memo.
“If they can get their work done from home, more power to them,” he said of state employees continuing to work remotely.
- Justice said he will give his fifth State of the State address from the usual location in the House of Delegates chambers, and said he has primarily left issues with maintaining social distancing in the chamber to House leadership and staff.
“We’re not going to be in a situation where we’re crowded in there,” he said.
That will require adjustments from traditional State of the State addresses, where in addition to having delegates at their desks, members of the Senate, Supreme Court justices and cabinet secretaries are seated on the House floor.
- Baby Dog, Justice’s pet bulldog, made a cameo appearance during the teleconference.
Justice, who earlier in the week attempted to discourage people from attending Super Bowl parties by divulging what he said is the final score of the game, on Friday credited Baby Dog as being the source of the prognostication.