WHEELING, W.Va. (KDKA) — While Pennsylvania’s plans to expand coronavirus vaccine availability are coming off the drawing board, the distribution network is clicking on all cylinders in West Virginia.
The state is leading the nation in the percentage of vaccines administered.READ MORE: High School Spring Sports Kick Off After Being Canceled Last Year During Pandemic's Start
At the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department, a group of people 80 years of age and older are being vaccinated after a year of isolation and worry. Residents like Dolores Ledergerber are relieved this day has come.
“I’m happy that I’m getting it, and I think West Virginia is doing a fine job,” she said.
In fact, West Virginia ranks No. 1 in the nation in efficient distribution of the vaccine, having administered 97 percent of the shots it has been issued. By comparison, Pennsylvania ranks 27th with only 48.5 percent of its shots used.
And unlike Pennsylvania, West Virginia is already vaccinating large numbers of the general public. On Tuesday, the state vaccinated people 80 and older but 65 and older for the rest of the week. Anyone can call and schedule an appointment as supplies last.
The administration for West Virginia Governor Jim Justice pretty much ignored federal guidance and crafted its own all-hands-on-deck distribution plan. The governor employed the National Guard to deliver the vaccine to hospitals and health departments.READ MORE: Pittsburgh-Area Caregivers Asking Lawmakers To Increase Minimum Wage End 48-Hour Fast
Instead of relying solely on big national chains, the state has used independent pharmacies like the Moundsville Pharmacy, which has not only vaccinated nursing homes and first responders but 800 employees in two different school districts.
“We showed up ready to deliver for our community. We put a lot of shots in arms,“ said Jason Turner of Moundsville Pharmacy.
Gov. Justice: West Virginia has had a bad rap. That’s all there is to it. We got a lot of smart people who think practically and are doers.
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: So your idea is to get that shot in the arm to as many people as possible, correct?
Justice: Bottom line, absolutely. It is truly amazing how we’ve moved and others are just sputtering along. They’ve got to know that every single minute is important and it can save somebody’s life.
The biggest problem facing West Virginia now is supply. The state is getting 23,000 doses this week and will quickly administer all of them. Residents are glad to be getting one in the arm.MORE NEWS: Westmoreland County Leaders Say They're Getting Less Vaccine Than Smaller Counties
“I’m looking forward to getting rid of the mask and running around loose again,” said Edward Novotny.