COVID-19 ruined 2020 for most of the world; the only way out of the disaster was a vaccine. Thankfully, in less than one year, scientists produced effective vaccines, that previously required multiple years.
West Virginia, including Cabell County, began well-organized immunizations for direct care medical staff, nursing and senior congregate homes and university staff in December. Now that it is time for vaccinate more of the public, disorganization is obvious. This state’s vaccination program needs to be re-organized immediately.
Gov. Justice is anxious to get the oldest generation immunized as soon as possible; scientific data supports this. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that West Virginians 80-89 years old comprise about 4% of the state’s population but almost 32% of its COVID-19 deaths.
Recent media photographs of a long line of seniors, some in wheelchairs, at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department and lines of vehicles in Wayne County trying to obtain one of the 100 available doses of vaccine at that health department illustrate this age group’s strong desire to be vaccinated.
Apparently, West Virginia county health departments are now in charge of vaccinations, but the notifications and sign-up processes that typically provide safe and orderly vaccination schedules are disorganized and confusing.
For example, late on Dec. 30, I received multiple notices of vaccine availability on my “Heads Up” app from Doddridge County, a place in which I’ve never set foot. However, that did tell me that vaccines were available to more of the public.
On Jan. 4, the Cabell-Huntington Health Department began giving out appointment times for vaccinations for those over 80. Over the New Year’s weekend, Kanawha County enlarged its vaccine administration process and West Virginia made the national news when the Boone County Health Department administered COVID-19 antibodies rather than the vaccine to 42 people.
Vaccine administration problems are not limited to West Virginia. Other states complain of short shipments and demand greatly exceeding supply. Florida and Texas news showed massive lines of senior citizens waiting overnight. That’s crazy. Federal guidelines and support might have alleviated some of these distribution problems.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that by 2020’s end 12.5 million doses of vaccine were distributed to the states, but only about 3 million people had been immunized; 20 million were expected to receive it.
According to a research report in STAT News by Zach Nayer, M.D., statistical analyses indicate that if 64% of Americans are immunized by May 2021, we will approach herd immunity. Without large scale national immunization, it could take as long as four years to reach that goal.
West Virginia’s initial limited immunization program appeared effective. Now that plans include immunizing more of the public, particularly older seniors and soon, school personnel, logistics is a mess. County health departments need organization, appointment times and appropriate waiting areas prior to and after vaccinations, as is being done by the Cabell-Huntington Health Department. Hopefully, by the end of the first week in January, all of West Virginia will have a realistic and organized plan for COVID-19 vaccine administration.