CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia’s coronavirus czar said Friday that vaccinations are already reducing COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations in the state.
Less than two months into the vaccination drive, Dr. Clay Marsh, a high-ranking West Virginia University health official, said there is a 40% to 45% reduction in deaths linked to COVID-19 from December to January and hospitalizations are down more than 50%.
“Which we do believe is directly related to the aggressive vaccination that we’ve done,” Marsh said at the governor’s coronavirus news conference.
About 11.5% of the state’s population has received at least one vaccine dose, while nearly 5% are fully vaccinated. The separate doses from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna should be taken within a few weeks to reach their full effect.
Twenty deaths from the coronavirus reported Friday, bringing the state’s total to 2,100.
More than 100,200 residents aged 65 and older have received at least one shot. Marsh said the average age for a person dying of the virus is 77.
Teachers 50 and over and health care workers are also currently eligible for vaccines. Officials urge everyone over the age of 16 to preregister for a vaccine online at vaccinate.wv.gov. The system plans to notify residents when their time has come for an appointment.
Republican Gov. Jim Justice said the state expects to receive another bump in its allocation of doses next week, up to about 30,000. But officials say they want at least 125,000 a week to reach the state’s full capability of getting shots.
“We also are in a race to vaccinate as many people as possible before the variants come to West Virginia and take hold here,” said James Hoyer, a retired major general leading the state’s coronavirus task force. None of the mutated variants of the virus, such as the British or South African types, have been reported yet in West Virginia.
Hospitalizations in the state are down to mid-November levels, with 384 patients. The state reported 472 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus Friday. That’s down 72% from a peak of 1,696 in late December.
The daily positivity rate is down to 4.26%, still higher than early fall 2020 but a marked improvement from late December, when it was four times as high.