West Virginia opens vaccine eligibility to all 16 and over

AP PhotoWest Virginia Governor Jim Justice applauds the West Virginia Supreme Court Justices during the State of the State Address in the House Chambers of the West Virginia State Capitol Building in Charleston, W.Va., on Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Chris Jackson)


charleston (AP) — West Virginia will immediately open coronavirus vaccine eligibility to all residents age 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 percent of the total population was partly vaccinated, and 15 percent were fully inoculated against the disease, which 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 percent 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.

At the state Capitol, a West Virginia lawmaker’s coronavirus diagnosis has prompted at least two others seated nearby to announce they won’t be at the Legislature for the time being.

Republican Sens. Joshua Higginbotham of Putnam County and Patrick Martin of Lewis County said they will self-quarantine.

Raleigh County Republican Brandon Steele tested positive for Covid-19 on Saturday.

— Associated Press writer John Raby contributed.

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