CHARLESTON, W.Va. – “We have hit a wall. We’ve known this wall was coming. It’s time for West Virginia to move again with ingenuity,” West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said describing the state’s situation related to COVID-19 vaccinations.
The state has plenty of vaccine supplies on hand, but not enough people coming to get shots, Justice reported, with some counties asking the state not to send more first doses.
One challenge has been getting people in the 16 to 35-year-old age group vaccinated, with just 9,000 of 38,000 people in that demographic vaccinated, officials said. “Younger people don’t understand the dangers of not getting vaccinated,” Justice said. COVID-19 variants are affecting children much worse than the original strain, state health officials said. “Our parents have got to listen and understand what’s really going on,” Justice said.
Another target of state efforts is to get people who’ve blamed inconvenience as their reason for not getting vaccinated, Justice said.
The governor said the rollout of a new initiative to get people vaccinated will be coming in the near future, following the “Beat 588 Bad” mantra he coined on Wednesday. More specifics will be announced next week, but Justice said convenience and education will be big parts of the effort. It will include things like setting up clinics at fairs and festivals or driving individual doses to residents in places like “Hoo Hoo Hollow,” Justice said.
Due to its efficiency in delivering vaccines, West Virginia has hit the wall sooner than other states, Justice explained. The governor is hoping the state’s new initiative will be something other states can use when they hit a similar wall.
If the effort is not successful, Justice said he will be reading names of the dead day after day: “We don’t want the body bags to be the motivation to go do this,” he warned.
State officials have asked the federal government for vials with fewer doses of vaccine in them, to avoid waste once the vials are opened. If that doesn’t happen, “we may have to waste a few, to get the job done,” Justice said.
“I want rid of the mask, just as much as you want rid of it, but they(state health officials) are trying in every way to protect you,” Gov. Justice said, explaining the continuation of the state’s face covering mandate.