Governor Justice

CHARLESTON — The first doses of the COVID19 vaccine could be administered in West Virginia “within days.”

Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday the FDA (Federal Drug Administration) is scheduled to have an all-day regulatory meeting today, where it is expected they will discuss the Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer vaccine.

“FDA officials have said they plan to make a decision on approving this emergency authorization within four days of the meeting, though I hope to the good Lord above that they can approve it even faster than that,” he said. “The federal government tells us that, within 24 hours of receiving the FDA approval, West Virginia will begin receiving shipments of the vaccine. Within 24 hours of receiving the vaccine, we will be vaccinating people.”

The first wave of the Pfizer vaccine will be delivered in weekly batches, with a maximum of 16,575 does each week and a total of 60,000.

Justice also said the initial total allocation of the Moderna vaccine, which may be reviewed by the FDA for emergency use authorization next week, has been increased from 26,000 to 32,600.

In accordance with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, the first-available vaccine doses will be distributed to healthcare workers, longterm care facility staff and residents, individuals critical to community infrastructure and emergency response, public health officials, and first responders.

National Guard Adjutant Gen. James Hoyer said during Wednesday’s pandemic briefing that the NG will be “ready and prepared” to receive and execute the distribution of the vaccine.

A “rock drill,” a military term for a rehearsal of concept (ROC), is being held today, he said, to walk through the process with key personnel who participate in preparing and delivering the vaccine.

But Hoyer also cautioned this is just the first phase of a long process to get everyone vaccinated.

“We still have months of time before everyone is vaccinated,” he said.

Hoyer said Information about the safety of the vaccine and how people have access to it will be disseminated by public affairs people with the joint interagency task force as each group who will receive the vaccine is targeted.

Local health officials say they don’t yet know how many doses will come to Mercer or surrounding counties in the first batch, but they are ready.

Dr. Steven Stefancic, Mercer County Health Officer, said last week adequate storage (vaccines must be stored in frigid temperatures) is available in the county and may include using dry ice.

How the vaccinations will be administered is a cooperative effort with the health department, Princeton Community Hospital and other health care providers, he added.

Both vaccines require two doses, with Pfizer’s administered 21 days apart and Moderna’s 28 days apart.

Justice said Monday the federal government has guaranteed the second doses for both vaccines will be delivered on time for the second shots.

Dr. Clay Marsh, state COVID-19 Czar, said Wednesday the first doses are now being administered in the United Kingdom.

“This vaccine appears to be very, very safe and they are incredibly effective,” he said, with a 95 percent effective rate. “We are very enthusiastic to bring it to our state.”

Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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