Gov. Justice, state officials provide information on COVID-19 vaccines, distribution during Friday’s briefing


CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice provided information on the two COVID-19 vaccines that are currently in phase three of trials and are anticipated to be distributed in a limited supply in the near future during his virtual briefing on Friday.

The Governor began the briefing once again lamenting over the latest COVID-19-related deaths in the state, which now stands at 799. “Life is so short, and to be cut short by this terrible pandemic is a shame,” Gov Justice said.

Justice then read a letter he received from a constituent on Monday, thanking him for listing the latest COVID-19 deaths, two of which the writer stated was his friends. The writer also stated that he hopes West Virginians follow the guidelines to stop the rising deaths. Justice said it was important to name each individual who dies as a result of the virus to honor them.

Gov. Justice then said that the state once again, has a record high number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and patients in the ICU. There are currently 623 individuals who are hospitalized and 169 individuals who are in ICU’s in the state. The Governor then announced that there are currently 13 red counties and 13 orange counties in the state, making a total of 26 total counties that are in red or orange. Gov. Justice said that these 26 counties essentially make up half of the state of West Virginia.

Justice then spoke about the idea of closing bars or restaurants in the state, saying that it might not make a difference in the number of cases in the state.

“If you’ve got 13 red counties, 13 orange counties and everything; and someone would say ‘Well, let’s close the bars in a county,’ or ‘Let’s close our restaurants or indoor dining, let’s do those kind of things.’ Well, pray tell somebody tell me how that is going to make an absolute significant impact. And if it doesn’t make a significant impact, it’s going to make an impact on the other side of the ledger [economically] and just hurt us on the other side,” Justice said.

“We have got this in a better way in West Virginia than probably anybody in the country, and yet it’s still tough,” Gov. Justice said when speaking about the state of COVID-19 in West Virginia and in the U.S.

Justice then spoke about the belief he has in the upcoming COVID-19 vaccine, calling it a ‘miracle’.

“We’re on a short fuse here. We got a miracle vaccine here on the way, we think”

Before providing additional information on the vaccine and its anticipated distribution in the state, the Governor spoke about the tragic shooting of Charleston Police Officer Cassie Johnson, who was shot in the line of duty on Tuesday, and was pronounced dead on Thursday.

Gov. Justice then offered a group prayer for Officer Johnson, calling her an incredible lady and an incredible hero for West Virginia. Justice then announced that the flag lowering for Officer Johnson will begin on the day of her services and will end at sundown that day.

The majority of the briefing focused on the COVID-19 vaccines, one developed by Pfizer and the other developed by Moderna, that are currently in phase three of clinical trials and have requested emergency use authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

During the briefing, Gov. Justice and health officials reiterated on multiple occasions that the vaccine will not give people COVID-19 and will protect then from contracting the virus; therefore preventing the spread of the virus.

Gov. Justice said the COVID-19 vaccine stops the chain reaction of the disease being passed from person to person. “Wearing the mask helps the chain be broken. Getting tested helps the chain be broken. But, the vaccine will be the big, big thing,” Gov. Justice said.

Gov. Justice said that the vaccine will be limited during its first phase of distribution. The Governor said that when the vaccine becomes more available in phase two, it will be more available to the public.

The Governor then went into detail about a proposed distribution plan of the vaccine. Justice said that during the first phase of distribution, those working in critical health units must be protected, followed by those working in health care; such as other hospital employees, then first responders and then the elderly population; such as those in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. West Virginia’s Coronavirus Czar Clay Marsh said that 47% of the state’s COVID-19 deaths are nursing home or assisted living residents.

Plan for Phase 1 of COVID-19 vaccine distribution in West Virginia (Photo Courtesy: West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s office)

When speaking about the distribution of the vaccine to the general public, Gov. Justice spoke about his optimism. The Governor said that he does not think the public will need to wait until ‘the middle of July’ to get the vaccine, and that he hopes that ‘by the middle of March’ we will be able to vaccinate everyone. Justice added that the CDC anticipates the process may take longer than that, but he believes it can be distributed quicker.

Which COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be available first?

​Developer​Technology​Phase 3 Trial Participants​Doses​Status as of 12/3/2020
​Pfizer​mRNA​44,000​2 doses 21 days apart​Requested EUA
​Moderna​mRNA​30,000​2 doses 28 days apart​Requested EUA
​Johnson & Johnson​Viral Vector​60,000​1 dose​Currently in phase 3 clinical trial
​Oxford / AstraZeneca​Viral Vector​30,000​2 doses 28 days apart​Currently in phase 3 clinical trial
Chart from West Virginia DHHR

Gov. Justice and health officials then once again reiterated that the vaccine will not give those who take it COVID-19, and that at this time, there are no serious health concerns from agencies in phase three testing of both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

Justice stated that the target date (which could still change pending clinical trials) is December 15. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines contain two doses and are not interchangeable with each other, (i.e. if you take the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, you must take the second does of the Pfizer vaccine, not the Moderna vaccine.)

The second dose of the Pfizer vaccine must be taken 21 days after the first dose and the second dose of the Moderna vaccine must be taken 28 days after the first dose. Additional information on the vaccine, including an FAQ, can be found on the DHHR’s website.

Currently the Pfizer vaccine is the first vaccine that is anticipated to be distrubted and the estimated amount of the vaccine to be distributed to the state initially is between 16-21,000.

Gov. Justice, along with other health officials said that due to the fact that initial doses of the vaccine will be limited, it will still take time to stop the virus and for that reason, West Virginians must continue to wear masks and social distance. Gov. Justice then spoke about the importance of the vaccine and told West Virginians not to be afraid to be vaccinated.

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