West Virginia continues to be the top-ranked US state for vaccine distribution on a per capita basis. As of January 13, the state has administered 100,696 1st doses and 16,434 2nd doses, totaling 117,130 doses administered overall statewide. The state has one of the highest 1st dose administration rates of 85.4 percent in the country. This has been made possible by the unique distribution plan of West Virginia that leverages a network of local small and independent pharmacies. We have provided below a detailed overview of the case studies related to the COVID-19 vaccine operations in West Virginia.
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Unique Vaccine Distribution Model
- West Virginia is deploying a unique COVID-19 vaccine distribution model to ensure quick and maximum reach of the vaccine among its residents. Unlike the other 49 US states that have signed on with a federal program partnering with CVS and Walgreens to vaccinate long-term care and assisted living facilities, West Virginia is leveraging its network of more than 250 small, independent pharmacy stores to distribute the vaccine.
- Most of the pharmacies used for the vaccine distribution are small and independent, and more than 40 percent of them are not chain-affiliated. They have a good presence in rural communities in the state and hence ensure a wide and easy reach of the vaccine in those areas. For example, to vaccinate teachers, the state utilized its local Bypass Pharmacy, which is one of the leading pharmacies in West Virginia, and was able to vaccinate more than 1,000 teachers in a day. On the other hand, CVS and Walgreens chain stores do not have a good presence in West Virginia, and thus the federal distribution model would have proved futile for the state.
- Another key feature of this distribution model is that many long-term care sites in the state already use and have existing relationships with local pharmacies for other vaccines and medicines, as well as twice-weekly coronavirus testing of residents and staff. Under the current distribution model, the state has tried to leverage the patient data that these pharmacies already have through these relationships.
- By utilizing the existing patient data, West Virginia was able to start scheduling vaccine appointments in early December itself, secure consent forms from patients, and match doses to eligible patients. Unlike other states, when vaccines arrived in West Virginia, the state already had pharmacies matched with long-term care facilities and vaccinators and pharmacists well-prepared to initiate the vaccination process in long-term care facilities. This distribution model has provided West Virginia a swift head start in terms of COVID-19 vaccine administration and has put the state directly in control of the flow of vaccines to long-term care facilities.
- Additionally, this distribution model has proved to be a great success for the state thus far. As per Bloomberg, the state has successfully administered 71.8% of the vaccine doses that it has received, which is the highest percentage in the country. According to the CDC data, the state has one of the best per capita vaccination rates in the country and had vaccinated 5,376 people per 100,000 residents by January 11 midday.
- Further, its flexible distribution model has allowed West Virginia to become the first state to vaccinate all of its nursing home residents and staff, as well as the assisted living facilities members. The state had finished delivering the first vaccine dose at all of its 214 long-term care facilities in late December itself. Also, due to the efficacy of its vaccine distribution process, the state does not have any vaccine stock lying idle in its warehouses. All the vaccines that have been received by the state thus far have either already been administered or have been tagged to a patient name to be administered in the next few days.
Efficient Vaccine Communication & Administration Process
- To provide its residents with timely, accurate, and scientifically sound information related to the COVID-19 vaccine, the state has initiated a dedicated COVID-19 vaccine communication campaign. The same has been developed by Digital Relativity, a Fayetteville company, under the guidance of the West Virginia University Public Interest Communication (PIC) Research Lab.
- The primary aim of this communication campaign is to build the confidence of West Virginians in the vaccine and reach all parts of the state, especially rural, underserved, and minority communities, to address their questions and concerns about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.
- In addition to the surveys done in early August to understand the mindset of the residents about the vaccine, the campaign team is conducting “virtual interviews and focus group discussions through both video and phone call options to reach residents of diverse backgrounds and broadband access” and spread the right message about the COVID-19 vaccine. The campaign also engages community partners in a coordinated statewide effort to ensure that West Virginians have precise and clear information about the vaccine and do not have any doubts about the same.
- Additionally, West Virginia has created an information hub for its residents with questions about COVID-19 vaccines. Residents can reach the same by phone at 1-833-734-0965 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. The state has named its vaccination rollout plan as operation ‘Save our Wisdom‘.
- West Virginia is administering COVID-19 vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna in two main (Phase 1 & Phase 2) and five sub-phases (1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, and 2C). The state is currently in phase 1B and has opened the vaccination process for residents who are 70 years of age and older from this week. All the details about the vaccination schedule in different counties can be accessed from the information portal. While each county has different working hours, the vaccines are being administered on weekdays (Monday to Friday) from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in most counties.
- In phase 1A, vaccines were administered to high-risk health care workers at their workplaces and long-term care residents and staff at their facilities. The state is also setting up vaccination events at National Guard armories and other locations to administer shots to those 80+ and subsequent age groups on a first-come-first-served basis. 80+ age residents who are also patients at a Community Health Center are being contacted by that center itself regarding access to a COVID-19 vaccine. Also, as and when the vaccine becomes available for subsequent age groups and vaccine clinics are scheduled, the Governor will announce it, and the local health department and community clinics will share additional details through a variety of communication means.
- COVID-19 vaccines are given through intramuscular (IM) injections, typically in the upper arm, and are being administered by a health care professional trained in giving an injection into the muscle. In Phase 1, West Virginians can use the Vaccine Administration Management System (VAMS), a web-based platform, to schedule their vaccination appointments. The tool also sends a reminder about returning for a second dose.
- As part of the booking process, Phase 1 participants will receive an email from [email protected] indicating that they are now eligible to schedule the vaccination appointment. They can then visit VAMS and schedule an appointment by selecting an appropriate vaccine appointment time and location. Appointments may also be scheduled by an employer or long-term care facility.