CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia will immediately open coronavirus vaccine eligibility to all residents aged 16 and older, Gov. Jim Justice announced Monday.
The state becomes one of the few in the nation to lift virtually all eligibility requirements way ahead of President Joe Biden’s goal of allowing all adults to get shots starting on May 1.
Justice said the state will continue prioritizing doses for residents 65 and over.
“Now is our time. Let’s go West Virginia,” he said. “Let’s get everybody in this state vaccinated.”
There are about 1.43 million people 18 and older in the state, according to census data.
State data showed that about 25% of the total population was partially vaccinated, and 15% were fully inoculated against the disease that has killed 2,612 people so far in West Virginia.
The state previously was allowing shots for all residents 50 and over, essential workers of any age and individuals 16 and over who had underlying medical conditions. Justice last week had said eligibility expansion may not come for weeks, but on Monday suddenly announced the state would open the floodgates.
Justice previously said it would meet Biden’s goal but that the state needed an increase in doses from the federal government. Last week, the state received about 44,200 first doses, according to state data, a 9% increase from the previous week’s shipment.
Officials didn’t announce how many doses they expect to receive this week.
Justice said last week the state would establish three new clinics that would allow anyone 65 and older to receive a vaccine, even if they show up to the site while on a waiting list.
Bill Crouch, Cabinet secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources, said Monday that the state was directly reaching out to finalize appointments for Black senior citizens and the state’s oldest residents who have signed up for shots. Residents can sign up online at vaccinate.wv.gov or call 1-833-734-0965. Some pharmacies, such as Walgreens, are also independently booking appointments.