Governor Jim Justice among first to get vaccine

Gov. Justice showing mask

CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY)- West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said he would get a coronavirus shot on Monday afternoon, the day the first vaccine doses shipped nationwide for health workers and people in long-term care centers.

He said he would receive a shot before cameras later that afternoon, which would make him one of the first top elected officials in the country to get vaccinated. Officials said they want to demonstrate their confidence in the vaccine.

“I’m all in,” Justice said at a news conference. “I want all West Virginians to know that I have all the faith that I can possibly have that this vaccine will work and that this vaccine is safe.”

The White House on Sunday reversed a plan to vaccinate top government officials while essential workers and nursing home patients await first doses. President Donald Trump tweeted that he was not scheduled to take the vaccine but looked “forward to doing so at the appropriate time.”

The 61-year-old Republican governor of Tennessee, Bill Lee, recently said he will take the vaccine when it is “available to the folks in my population sector.”

Justice, 69, also emphasized the need to get older residents vaccinated first.

“We’re going to move at light speed to get you vaccinated,” Justice said, urging people to keep wearing masks.

It could be months before the general public has access to a vaccine.

Doses were first shipped to Kanawha and Monongalia counties and are expected to reach Berkeley, Cabell and Greenbrier counties on Tuesday.

The number of people hospitalized for the virus hit a record 720 on Sunday, more than double the number from a month earlier.

A record 130 people died from the virus last week, up 15.5% from the previous week. The number of total deaths, 978, has doubled since early November.

The virus is confirmed to have infected at least 53,741 people in the state and killed 978.

Justice also said the state is hoping to develop a plan to test all college students once a week.

Frozen vials of the vaccine made by Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech continue to be shipped this week. West Virginia expects to receive tens of thousands of doses a week initially, ramping up in the future as Moderna looks to gain federal emergency use authorization for another vaccine in the days ahead.