State officials say they are hopeful the trickle of doses of COVID-19 vaccine will ramp up beginning next week.
Gov. Jim Justice said during Wednesday’s state COVID-19 briefing that the Biden administration has promised to increase the state’s weekly allotment of just over 23,000 doses of vaccine by 20%, increasing the weekly total to nearly 28,000 doses.
Also, he said a Biden administration plan to distribute 1 million doses of vaccine to pharmacy chains, based on state population, should bring another 2,500 to 3,000 doses to the state.
“It’s no way close to where we want to be, but it’s better,” Justice said.
Although the state has capacity to administer 125,000 doses a week, the state has been unable to come anywhere close to getting that amount of vaccine.
Dr. Clay Marsh, vice president for health sciences at West Virginia University and state COVID-19 czar, said that shortage should abate in the next couple of months as Moderna and Pfizer ramp up production, and as new vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca receive FDA approval.
“The hope is we’re going to fill in that shortage very quickly,” he said.
Since the state began administering COVID-19 vaccinations on Dec. 14, 2020, a total of 207,200 first vaccinations have been administered — equivalent to about 11.5% of the state population.
About 121,400 West Virginians have received the second vaccination, or 6.8% of the total population.
Under a current effort to vaccinate West Virginians age 65 or older, that age group has received 118,700 vaccinations — equal to about 32% of the total number of residents in that age group, assuming all shots were first vaccinations.
Marsh said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has some advantages in that it does not require a follow-up injection and does not need to be stored at super-cold temperatures, unlike the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines.
He said that could make it more useful among older populations and in rural areas.
“We will continue to evaluate how to best position the various vaccines,” Marsh said. “We just need more vaccine.”
Also during Wednesday’s briefing, Justice reiterated his support for President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic stimulus plan, over a scaled-back $618 billion alternative proposed by Republicans.
“I’ve been the first to step up and say, really and truly, at this time we need to go big or not go at all,” Justice said.
“From my standpoint, I’ve never seen a situation of a problem of this magnitude where you could cut your way out of the problem,” said Justice, whose call to “go big” with stimulus funding has put him at odds with U.S. Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who both advocate scaling back the Biden plan.