CHARLESTON — During Wednesday’s news briefing, Gov. Jim Justice reaffirmed that the State’s vaccine distribution network remains prepared to begin administering COVID-19 vaccinations to children ages 12-15 as soon as final authorization for the vaccine’s usage in this age group takes place.
According to a news release from the governor’s office, on Monday, the U.S. FDA authorized the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use in those aged 12 and older. Today, the U.S. CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) met and voted to recommend use of the vaccine among children ages 12-15. That recommendation will now go to the CDC director for final approval.
Once fully authorized, vaccine distribution officials in West Virginia reportedly “plan to quickly stand up vaccination clinics at schools in all 55 counties across the state.”
“We stand ready to be able to move,” Gov. Justice said. “We’re going to make them available as soon as we get the go-ahead from the CDC.”
The West Virginia Department of Education estimates that there are 78,000 students ages 12-15 who are eligible for the vaccine in the state’s K-12 schools. With the permission of their guardians, all of them will be able to receive the vaccine.
Additionally, these school clinics will offer vaccinations to all other eligible West Virginians, including any other students, parents, and educators who have yet to be vaccinated.
“We need more and more people to get a feeling of patriotism and step up to be vaccinated,” Gov. Justice said. “Our numbers are gradually getting better. We’re on a good pathway, but we’ve got to stay with it.”
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Justice announced that the West Virginia Lottery and the Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) on vaccinations have scheduled mobile drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination clinics this Thursday, May 13, and Friday, May 14, at the West Virginia Lottery Headquarters parking lot in downtown Charleston.
“You just drive through, get your shot, and drive away. It’s simple as mud,” Gov. Justice said.
The clinics will be open to the public from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on both days. No appointment is necessary. All three brands of vaccine will be available.
“We again thank all those that are working so hard,” Gov. Justice said. “Whether it’s our folks at the DHHR, the National Guard, all the folks in Kanawha County, the Lottery Commission, and on down; all the good stuff that you’ve done is just amazing.”
Additionally Wednesday, Gov. Justice announced that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is using stimulus money for an Emergency Broadband Assistance Program.
The $3.2 billion program provides a discount of up to $50 per month toward broadband service for eligible households. The program also provides a discount of up to $100 per household toward a one-time purchase of a computer, laptop, or tablet.
A household is eligible if one member of the household meets at least one of the criteria below:
Has an income that is at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, or the FCC’s Lifeline program;
Approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program;
Experienced a substantial loss of income through job loss or furlough as a result of the pandemic.
“All you’ve got to do is qualify in one of these areas and you’re eligible,” Gov. Justice said. “Please take advantage of this. Really and truly, this is just additional fed dollars coming into West Virginia, and it will have a multiplier effect and help some families and folks across the state.”
For more information, visit fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit or call 833-511-0311.
Also on Wednesday, Gov. Justice took time out of his remarks on COVID-19 to urge West Virginians to avoid unnecessarily hoarding large amounts of gasoline amid recent concerns in other states regarding the Colonial Pipeline.
“The bulk of our gasoline that comes into the state of West Virginia does not come on the Colonial Pipeline, it comes on the Plantation Pipeline. But we’re having some people hoarding gasoline anyway, and we are basically creating our own shortage right now,” Gov. Justice said. “There is no real shortage of fuel right now in West Virginia, it’s simply a transportation logistics problem and that, in essence, creates a shortage.”
Once again Wednesday, Gov. Justice discussed the “Call to Arms” vaccine initiative that he announced last week to encourage more West Virginians to choose to get vaccinated.
The goals of the initiative are to vaccinate 65% of all eligible West Virginians, 75% of West Virginians age 50 and older, and 85% of West Virginians age 65 and older with at least one dose by West Virginia’s 158th birthday on June 20; the same day that the Governor plans to lift the Statewide Indoor Face Covering Requirement.
Until June 20, however, the Governor’s Statewide Indoor Face Covering Requirement remains in effect.
All West Virginians age 9 and older must wear a face covering at all times inside all indoor public places, regardless of whether or not they are able to maintain proper social distance.
The requirement does not apply to anyone who has trouble breathing or is otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance, anyone who is at a restaurant and actively consuming food or drink, anyone alone in a closed or physically distanced room, anyone actively engaged in physical activity indoors, or anyone who is actively presenting or speaking to an audience in an environment where there is at least 15 feet of distance or a barrier separating the presenter and the audience.
All businesses and organizations that invite the public into their facilities must post adequate signage advising guests of the face covering requirement and are responsible for enforcing the requirement to ensure it is being followed.
All West Virginians interested in being vaccinated are urged to visit vaccinate.wv.gov or call the West Virginia Vaccine Info Line: 1-833-734-0965. The info line is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
West Virginia is offering a $100 incentive to all residents ages 16-35 to encourage younger residents to get vaccinated. More information on this program will be provided as it becomes available. The $100 incentive will be retroactive, meaning all West Virginians ages 16-35 who have already been vaccinated will also receive their $100 incentive.
The Governor also offered a reminder that free COVID-19 vaccination clinics will be held at all West Virginia State Parks and State Forests between now and Memorial Day. Several state park and forest locations will host clinics prior to Memorial Day. Then, on Memorial Day weekend, all West Virginia State Parks and Forests will offer vaccines to employees, employees’ families, and park guests. Further details will be posted at wvstateparks.com as they become available.
In addition to clinic locations, vaccinations continue to be made available at Walgreens locations, the Med Shoppe/Leader network of pharmacies, Walmart locations, and additional independent pharmacies throughout the state as part of the federal pharmacy partnership in West Virginia.
West Virginians can go to vaccines.gov for assistance in locating and securing an appointment at one of these federal pharmacy partners.