WV expects vaccine supply surge as COVID-19 deaths drop

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia expects to receive a surge in coronavirus vaccine doses this week after a one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine gained emergency use authorization.

On top of the 15,500 doses from Johnson & Johnson, the state’s allocation of vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna will mean the state receives nearly 93,000 total doses this week, Gov. Jim Justice said Monday.

Although other vaccines currently available require two doses to be fully vaccinated, the Johnson & Johnson only requires one shot.

The state administered more than 60,000 total first and second doses last week.

With the vaccine supply now increasing, it will test West Virginia officials’ claims that the state has the capacity to administer 125,000 shots a week.

They have said vaccinations have already driven down deaths linked to COVID-19. There were 39 deaths reported last week, the first time with fewer than 40 deaths reported statewide since late October.

On Monday the state reported no additional deaths.

“I am so delighted by this it’s unbelievable,” Justice said. “We have lost nobody in the last 24 hours.”

There has been an 85% reduction in deaths in the first seven weeks of 2021, said James Hoyer, a retired major general leading the state’s coronavirus task force.

The number of people hospitalized for the virus statewide Sunday, 225, was the lowest since Oct. 27 and was down from the peak of 818 on Jan. 5.

Yet the number of confirmed new cases went up 8% from the previous week. At 1,574, it marked the first weekly rise in positive cases since early January.

But the vaccines have nearly eliminated outbreaks in long-term care centers, where residents have already been offered second doses. There are only 33 active cases in those facilities, according to state data, down from over 440 in late January.

Justice said about half of all residents 65 and older have received a shot. In total, 16.7% of the state’s 1.78 million population has received at least one dose, while 11% are fully vaccinated.

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