Trust the Data

W.Va. leading the way in vaccine rollout

When Dr. Clay Marsh testified Tuesday before a Congressional subcommittee on how West Virginia has been at the front of the nation with getting the COVID-19 vaccine into the arms of residents, one underlying point stood out: The state trusted the data.

While other states have struggled in their vaccine rollout, West Virginia decided to consider those most at-risk for COVID-19 and set in place a priority list for the vaccine. If you recall, the initial guidance from the federal government placed most residents aged 65 and over lower on the priority list. In West Virginia, however, by looking at the data, Marsh and Gov. Jim Justice created a new list that called for vaccinating older West Virginians ­ — the most vulnerable segment of the population — first.

Marsh, in his testimony, offered the following data that factored into West Virginia’s decision:

“We knew that 50% of our deaths from COVID-19 were from our nursing home population. In addition, our average age of death from COVID-19 … is 77; 77.5% of our deaths are in residents greater than aged 70; 92% of our deaths are in residents greater than aged 60 … and 97% of our deaths are in residents” over 50, he said. “It was essential to make sure this vulnerable population was among the first to be vaccinated.”

That was the right call, and it has saved lives.

According to Marsh’s testimony, West Virginia has administered 83 percent of the total doses it has been alloted. In the past two months, the state reports 205,252 West Virginians have received their first vaccine dose, while 88,807 residents have been fully vaccinated. Outside of Alaska, West Virginia leads the nation with more than 11% of the population receiving a first shot.

All it takes is a look at the vaccine rollout in our surrounding states, where residents are struggling to get vaccinated, to realize West Virginia’s plan is working. Much of the credit for that goes to Marsh.


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