CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice made an array of promises Wednesday to turn around the state's lagging coronavirus vaccination campaign as it trails over a dozen states.
The state is confronting vaccine hesitancy, Justice has said, amid a focus on vaccinating residents aged 16 to 35. The Republican governor has already dangled the prize of a “patriotic” $100 savings bond for those young people who get a shot. The state is also attempting to make walk-up vaccine clinics ubiquitous, holding them at state parks, fairs, businesses, schools and other high-traffic places.
“West Virginia is going to end up leading the way again,” Justice said at his regularly scheduled news conference. “I'm going to try with all in me.”
Justice also said he wanted to beat President Joe Biden's goal of vaccinating 70% of American adults by July Fourth. “I want it more than anybody, I promise you that,” he said. The state has currently given at least one dose to nearly 54% of its eligible population of people over the age of 16.
Over 44% of the state's residents have received at least one dose of a vaccine, state data show, and 36% are fully vaccinated.
Nearly 80% of residents aged 65 and over have received at least one dose, inching toward the governor's goal of 85% coverage.
Officials said they have no plans to seek a reduction in the number of doses the state receives from the federal government, following the White House's announcement that allocations will shift based on which states are left holding too many unused doses.
“We sure don't want to get in a situation where we have a real need, and then we're scrambling again to someway somehow come up with the vaccine," Justice said.
Officials said they are not seeing many cases of partially vaccinated people not returning for their second and final dose. The vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna require two doses spaced out by three to four weeks for full effectiveness, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine regimen is one-shot only.
“We're managing an exceptionally good rate right now of uptake,” said James Hoyer, a retired major general leading the state's coronavirus task force.