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COVID-19 vaccines: A situation that will continue to evolve

COVID-19 vaccines: A situation that will continue to evolve

Jan. 21, 2021

By Mary Wade Burnside

As I wrote this last Friday, the voice of retired Major Gen. James Hoyer emanated from the radio as he discussed how West Virginia is No. 1 in the nation for something positive — having the highest rate of COVID-19 vaccination, on the NPR show “Here and Now.” 

The fact that this information has made national news puts the Mountain State in a favorable light.

It seems like a long time ago since Dec. 30, when Gov. Jim Justice announced that residents 80 years and older would be prioritized for vaccination that was to begin immediately.

The New Year’s weekend was a busy one at Monongalia County Health Department as employees worked to create an event on Monday, Jan. 4 at the West Virginia Army National Guard Readiness Center in order to carry out this assignment.

It was all worth it at the end of the day when 100 Monongalia County residents left with a dose of COVID-19 vaccine in their arms. We stepped it up later in the week to inoculate 300 on Thursday and 200 on Friday.

Not wanting to rest on our laurels, and with the help of health departments from Preston, Marion and Taylor counties, the WVU School of Nursing and Monongalia County Emergency Management, MCHD and partners doubled that figure this past Thursday, providing more than 750 doses to regional residents.

That’s 1,350 individuals who have gotten their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. And it doesn’t include what MCHD has done at the health department, inoculating employees, first responders, law enforcement and other front-line workers. That tally is nearly 600, for nearly 2,000 doses administered in the four weeks since the first vaccine arrived.
And those numbers will keep growing.

While we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished, we know we still have a lot of work to do. We know because our phones are ringing off the hook from individuals wanting to get themselves or a loved one on the list for an appointment.

On the bright side, any concerns about considerable reluctance to get the vaccine have been quelled. After all, West Virginia has some of the strictest vaccine laws in general. The citizens getting the vaccine now are of the age that they can remember diseases such as polio, which was eradicated in the United States more than 40 years ago because of vaccines.

They’re serving as great role models for when everyone else’s turn comes around. And they also know that their peers make up a large portion of the 1,733 deaths, as of Friday, of West Virginians because of this virus.

For those who still are waiting for an appointment — please be patient. Currently, MCHD is taking phone calls to get individuals on a list, who will be prioritized and called for an appointment when it’s their turn. More info on that below.

We know some have been frustrated as they try to get through to get on the list, which currently exceeds 5,000 names. To that end, MCHD is working on setting up a call center and also creating a system for online registration. When those systems are in place, information will be released so residents can switch to the new methods of registration.

In the meantime, here’s how it works: To get a Monongalia County resident on the list, call 304-598-5100 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and talk to an employee.

It also would be helpful to refer to MCHD’s new COVID testing and vaccination web page, monchd.org/testing--vaccines.html and to follow us on social media — Facebook, Instagram and Twitter — to keep up with this constantly evolving situation.

When it’s your turn to get an appointment, remember these tips: You can’t have had any other vaccine two weeks prior to your COVID-19 vaccine. And because the vaccine is administered high on the arm, consider wearing a short-sleeved shirt to your appointment, even if you have to don a sweater too because of the cold weather.

​And keep in mind that even after you get both doses of the vaccine, it’s still necessary to wear a mask, maintain your social distance and follow other COVID-19 guidelines for now.

Mary Wade Burnside is the public information officer at Monongalia County Health Department.

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