West Virginia says next week’s Pfizer vaccine allotment down

CHARLESTON, WV (AP)- West Virginia officials said the state will receive about 44% fewer doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine next week than initially expected, in line with several other states.

“They had some hiccup,” said Gov. Jim Justice about the federal government’s distribution of the precious vaccine. “I don’t really know what it is. Hiccups are not really permissible when people are dying.”

The state expects about 11,700 doses to come in next week, down from 21,000. Pfizer has said its production levels have not changed and the Trump administration has downplayed the risk of delays.

Several states have said they are receiving a smaller allotment of doses than first projected, with little explanation for the shift. West Virginia officials said they were informed of their allocation on Thursday.

Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, head of the West Virginia National Guard, said he was still optimistic in the state’s drive to vaccinate all long-term care centers within three weeks. A second vaccine from Moderna is awaiting emergency use authorization from federal authorities in the coming days, with 32,600 doses expected to initially ship to the state.

By Saturday morning the state plans to have administered about 8,000 shots at 50 nursing homes and assisted-living communities. Justice said that about 85% to 95% of residents at homes are taking the shots. But participation drops to about 60% among staff.

“That’s not good enough,” he said. “But as far as the residents, we’re doing well.”

The state attributes about half of its 1,091 total deaths linked to COVID-19 to long-term care centers. It has gotten a head start on many other states in quickly vaccinating facilities, through partnerships with dozens of local pharmacies that have established ties to facilities across the rural state.

The state reported 864 new confirmed coronavirus cases Friday, a day after a near record setting 1,245 cases. The daily positivity rate went down to 7.28%, still higher than public health officials hope for.

Since getting the first doses of the vaccine Monday, the state has distributed about 11,000 doses, mostly at hospitals and long-term care centers. Justice and four of his top aides involved in the coronavirus response received shots on camera, saying they wanted to display the vaccine’s safety, even as other governors wait for frontline workers to receive inoculations first. Vice President Mike Pence also received the shot live on TV on Friday.

There are 5.9 million doses of the vaccine developed by Moderna Inc. and the National Institutes of Health at the ready once the Food and Drug Administration gives it green light. Its use could begin as early as Monday.

The governor said he plans to prioritize people over the ages of 65 and 50 with preexisting conditions as the state continues its rollout of the vaccine.