West Virginia sets pace on COVID-19 vaccine rollout

West Virginia sets pace on COVID-19 vaccine rollout
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West Virginia sets pace on COVID-19 vaccine rollout

West Virginia units tempo on COVID-19 vaccine rollout

KENOVA, W.Va. — Griffith & Feil Drug has been in enterprise since 1892, a family-owned, small-town pharmacy. This isn’t its first pandemic.

Greater than a century after serving to West Virginians confront the Spanish flu in 1918, the pharmacy in Kenova, a neighborhood of about 3,000 individuals, helps the state lead the nation in COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

West Virginia has emerged as an unlikely success within the nation’s in any other case chaotic vaccine rollout, largely due to the state’s resolution to reject a federal partnership with CVS and Walgreens and as a substitute enlist mom-and-pop pharmacies to vaccinate residents towards the virus that has killed over 399,000 Individuals.

Extra photographs have gone into individuals’s arms per capita throughout West Virginia than in every other state, with at the very least 7.4 p.c of the inhabitants receiving the primary of two photographs, in response to state information.

West Virginia was the primary within the nation to complete providing first doses to all long-term care facilities earlier than the tip of December, and the state expects to offer second doses at these amenities by the tip of January.

“Boy, have we seen that. I believe the West Virginia mannequin is basically one which we’d love for lots extra states to undertake,” stated John Beckner, a pharmacist who works on the Alexandria, Virginia-based Nationwide Group Pharmacists Affiliation, which advocates for pharmacies throughout the nation.

It’s early within the course of, however that has not stopped Republican Gov. Jim Justice from proclaiming that the vaccine effort runs counter to preconceived notions concerning the Mountaineer State.

“Little outdated West Virginia, that was considered for a whole lot of years, you realize, as a spot the place perhaps we had been backward or darkish or dingy,” Justice stated final week.

As an alternative, it seems that “West Virginia has been the diamond within the tough,” Justice stated on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

Reasonably than counting on nationwide chains, 250 native pharmacists arrange clinics in rural communities. The truth that residents who could also be cautious of the vaccine appear to belief them makes a distinction.

“As my uncle all the time instructed me, these individuals aren’t your clients, they’re your pals and neighbors,” stated Ric Griffith, the pharmacist at Griffith & Feil in Kenova, a city close to the Kentucky state line.

A chatty raconteur and former mayor of Kenova, he can recall generations of patrons frequenting the store, which is nearly unchanged for the reason that Fifties, with a soda fountain and jukebox within the entrance and prescriptions within the again.

Griffith, 71, started taking up the pharmacy from his father within the early Nineties and was elected to the Home of Delegates as a Democrat final yr. His daughter, Heidi Griffith Romero, 45, adopted into the household enterprise and can also be administering photographs.

Holding a vaccination clinic on the city highschool, he recalled his uncle telling him he misplaced 4 classmates to the 1918 flu pandemic, which killed greater than 50 million individuals worldwide.

“And it was a tragedy that I assumed I’d by no means be concerned with,” he stated, taking a break from giving vaccines to academics aged 50 and over.

When Mark Hayes, a center college steerage counselor in Kenova, walked as much as obtain his first dose, he noticed Griffith, who holds native movie star standing for internet hosting an extravagant annual Halloween pumpkin-carving occasion that draws hundreds.

“I acknowledged him instantly,” Hayes stated. “‘The Pumpkin King? Are you giving me the shot?’”

Kevin Roberts, a 59-year-old college bus driver in Kenova, stated “it makes a distinction” for a pharmacist he is aware of to manage the photographs. “I hope that a whole lot of these skeptics change their thoughts,” he stated.

Members of the West Virginia National Guard monitor statewide efforts to distribute COVID-19 vaccines .
Members of the West Virginia Nationwide Guard monitor statewide efforts to distribute COVID-19 vaccines.
John Raby/AP

Officers additionally credit score a 50-person command middle on the state’s Nationwide Guard headquarters within the capital of Charleston. Inside a cavernous corridor, leaders of the vaccine operation and state well being officers sit between plexiglass dividers to supervise shipments of the valuable doses to 5 hubs. From there, deliveries go to drugstores and native well being departments.

CVS has up to now declined to work with state officers on vaccinating individuals at its shops, however Walgreens is taking part and has joined in to carry clinics at some nursing properties, officers stated.

The federal partnership involving each firms would have allowed Washington officers to dictate the phrases of nursing house vaccinations, stated Marty Wright, the pinnacle of the West Virginia Well being Care Affiliation, which represents well being care firms.

“If the state would’ve activated the federal plan, the state would’ve had zero management over the state of affairs,” Wright stated.

Secretary of Well being and Human Providers Alex Azar praised West Virginia’s efforts to vaccinate the aged.

“Increasing eligibility to all the susceptible is the quickest method to defend the susceptible,”

Azar stated Tuesday at an Operation Warp Pace assembly. He additionally highlighted Connecticut as a brilliant spot within the vaccine.

Given West Virginia’s success up to now, leaders are actually in search of extra doses to allow them to open vaccinations for extra teams. The Griffith & Feil retailer has needed to decline photographs for out-of-state clients who caught phrase of West Virginia’s success.

The governor not too long ago lowered the age of eligibility for members of most people to 70.

The efforts haven’t been with out errors. The Boone County Well being Division was barred from distributing the vaccine final month after it mistakenly gave 44 individuals an antibody therapy as a substitute of vaccines.

A sign inside Griffith & Feil pharmacy hangs in Kenova, West Virginia.
Griffith & Feil is amongst 250 mom-and-pop pharmacies in West Virginia serving to to vaccinate residents within the quest to banish the coronavirus pandemic.
John Roby/AP

The state started vaccinating college employees aged 50 or older lower than two weeks in the past. The governor needs in-person studying to renew at as many faculties as potential by Tuesday, lengthy earlier than academics can have obtained their second vaccine doses.

As of Sunday, over 130,100 first doses have been administered, and 23,066 individuals have obtained each photographs within the state with a inhabitants of about 1.78 million individuals. Practically 55,800 of the primary doses have gone to residents aged 65 and older.

Mitchel Rothholz, who leads immunization coverage on the American Pharmacists Affiliation, stated different governors could be sensible to enlist native pharmacies.

“Particularly at a time when you might have vaccine hesitancy and issues in vaccine confidence, accessing a well being care supplier like a neighborhood pharmacist offers a consolation degree to the sufferers and communities,” Rothholz added.

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