Q: What explains West Virginia’s fast vaccine rollout?
A: West Virginia is right at the top of the list of states that have rolled out the COVID-19 vaccine fastest, according to NPR. As of Monday, more than 9% of the state’s residents had been vaccinated.
This is in part because the state rejected the federal government’s approach to vaccinating nursing home residents, according to the Wall Street Journal. Instead of partnering with CVS and Walgreens, West Virginia chose to rely on 250 local pharmacies, many of which had existing relationships with patients.
The state also relied on the National Guard for logistics like delivering vaccines and hosting clinics, an approach that proved successful. And the state’s vaccine distribution task force is led by Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, the former head of the state’s National Guard.
In addition, West Virginia is operating a state-run hotline for the state’s residents to ask questions about the vaccine and schedule appointments. The hotline’s average response time is six minutes, Hoyer recently told NPR.
The state’s rollout has not been flawless, however. Mountain State Spotlight, a nonprofit newsroom that covers West Virginia, reported in January that Gov. Jim Justice opened up vaccine eligibility before communicating with local health departments, leading to widespread chaos. In addition, the state’s public health system has long been underfunded, forcing some areas to rely on volunteers to answer the phones and help administer shots.
Still, the state of 1.8 million is leading the nation when it comes to vaccine distribution.