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Vaccination doses coming to W.Va. through program

CHARLESTON — Officials said Monday that West Virginia will get an additional number of COVID-19 for the state’s older population and essential workers through a federal partnership with national pharmacy chain Walgreens.

Gov. Jim Justice and James Hoyer, the leader of the governor’s joint interagency vaccine task force, said the state will receive an additional 5,800 doses per week through phase II of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program. The program is made possible by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Health and Human Services.

“We keep trying in every way and keep pleading with the federal government to get more and more vaccines,” Justice said. “This is another bump. It’s a bump above what we’re getting … the net of the whole thing is we’re getting close to 6,000 additional doses per week and that’s going to help a bunch.”

West Virginia joins 15 other states in the program, which is open to residents age 65 and older and critical healthcare workers. According to a press release from Walgreens last week, pharmacies will receive the vaccine doses starting Friday.

“… We look forward to leveraging our experience to support the federal government and CDC in expanding access to these vaccines,” the company said.

Hoyer said the state has already started coordinating with local and national Walgreens officials on how the doses would be administered, using the state’s COVID-19 vaccine pre-registration and scheduling portal and the waiting lists county health departments already have.

“Walgreens has agreed to participate as part of our joint interagency task force and we will be pushing lists to Walgreens from our Everbridge system in conjunction with each county location where those Walgreens are. It’s a coordinated, consolidated and synchronized effort to get doses out, continuing to focus on over age 65 and those critical areas the governor pointed out.”

The state opted out of phase I of the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program which focused on vaccinating residents of long-term care facilities. That program didn’t start vaccination nursing home and assisted living residents until the beginning of January.

Instead, West Virginia made the vaccination of long-term care residents a top priority when the state received its first vaccine doses on Dec. 14, 2020. The state wrapped up the long-term care vaccination effort nearly two weeks ago, administering the required two doses.

Federal coronavirus officials said last week that West Virginia and other states would receive a 20 percent increase in doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines starting next week. The boost would mean an additional 2,500 to 3,000 doses on top of the approximately 23,000 doses the state receives weekly.

State officials point to the state’s successful COVID-19 vaccination program for the decrease in active cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. According to vaccination numbers, 105,889 residents — nearly 6 percent of West Virginia’s population — have been fully vaccinated with both doses of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine as of Monday.

Of the 207,200 first-dose vials of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines received by the state to date, more than 219,892 — or 106.1 percent — of first doses have been administered due to some of the five-dose vials having enough for an additional sixth dose. Through Operation: Save Our Wisdom, more than 205,000 people age 55 and older have received a vaccine.

Justice and Hoyer continued to encourage state residents to go to vaccinate.wv.gov and pre-register with the Everbridge vaccine appointment system or call 1-833-734-0965 to for assistance with pre-registering. Officials also stressed continued patience, as doses are still limited.

“No matter what, register, because it helps us plan and it helps us prepare to be able to identify target populations,” Hoyer said. “Be patient with us, as we continue to improve the system going forward and challenge us by calling the hotline if you have an issue or a problem.”

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