Health department sees huge turnout for limited vaccine distribution, hundreds turned away

BLUEFIELD, WV (WOAY) – As part of an initiative from Governor Jim Justice, health departments across the state have received doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, with the intended recipients to be those over the age of 80.

At the Mercer County Health Department, hundreds of county residents filled the parking lot and surrounding roads Monday morning, hoping for a chance to receive the vaccine. However, with only 100 doses to give, many would be turned away.

“We were only allotted the 100 doses and unfortunately we don’t know when another shipment will come. If they’re after that hundredth person, then they’ll be turned away today because there’s nothing that we can give them,” said Interim Health Department Administrator Brenda Donithan.

Some residents got in line as early as 5:00 A.M., hours before the distribution would begin at 9:00 A.M. Within just 45 minutes of starting, the health department had administered 40 doses, but had barely made a dent in the line of cars.

One 81-year-old resident, Dixie O’Connor, had gotten in line at 7:45 AM. Despite the long wait, they were just happy to get some protection against the virus.

“I didn’t get to see my family during Thanksgiving or Christmas. I just want to be able to hug people again,” O’Connor said.

The health department received the Moderna vaccine. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are given in two shot doses, between three and four weeks apart. The first shot gives your body a basic immune response to the virus, and the second shot reinforces that, giving you better immunity to COVID-19.

The state guarantees the second dose when they distribute vaccines. To ensure everyone gets the full benefits of being vaccinated. Vaccine recipients are invited four weeks later to receive the second dose.

“Any time you give a dose, then the state puts back a dose to make sure that all the people that had the first doses get the booster dose,” Donithan added.

There are roughly 80,000 West Virginia residents between the ages of 80 and 89. They make up nearly 4.5% of the population. However, they account for more than 31% of the state’s COVID-19 related deaths.

The health department says they’re glad to be able to offer the vaccines to this vulnerable population, even if it’s just a small number of doses. 

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