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New COVID-19 vaccine registration system goes live

NEW SYSTEM — Gov. Jim Justice, during his COVID-19 response briefing Monday, discussed the launch of the state’s new online vaccine registration system.

CHARLESTON — Monday’s rollout of a new pre-registration system to notify West Virginians when vaccines are available is working, state officials said.

“This morning we became the first state in the nation to launch a COVID vaccine pre-registration system,” said Gov. Jim Justice during his Monday coronavirus briefing. “As we get the vaccine supply from the federal government, we will absolutely quickly and efficiently get those shots in arms.”

The COVID-19 vaccine pre-registration portal went live on the Department of Health and Human Resources’ vaccine website Monday morning. Residents can go to vaccinate.wv.gov to access the pre-registration portal, created by tech company Everbridge.

Using the same technology Everbridge uses to push email, text and automatic call alerts to subscribers to emergencies and incidents, the COVID-19 vaccine pre-registration portal will notify residents to receive updates on when and where vaccine doses are available. The system cost the state more than $700,000 to implement.

Justice said that more than 40,000 residents had already pre-registered between 8 a.m. and noon Monday.

“The system is running smoothly, and we haven’t seen any issues so far but we probably will,” Justice said. “It’s a whole lot better than telling you we can’t get to you until April.”

Officials stressed that the pre-registration system is meant to get residents into the alert system and receive updates. Later, the system will allow residents to schedule vaccination appointments once the supply of vaccines increases and health officials finish vaccinating essential workers in phase 1 of the state vaccination plan and residents age 65 and older.

“This is just a pre-registration. That’s all it is,” Justice said. “It’s just some way to make it more convenient where you’re not calling on the phone. I hate that like crazy, you’re calling over and over 150 times and can’t get through. I know the inconvenience and that’s why we’ve done this.”

According to DHHR, the only pre-registered residents who will receive a vaccine appointment alert at this time are people age 65 and older, people in certain high-risk categories depending on the availability of doses. But all West Virginians are encouraged to pre-register.

Officials also said that if people are already on a waitlist through their county health department or medical provider, there is no need to register again through the online portal. Those waitlists will be merged with the Everbridge system. Anyone with limited or no access to the internet can call the state vaccine hotline at 1-833-734-0965 to get help with pre-registration.

As of Monday, more than 9 percent of state residents have been vaccinated with the first dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses spread out between 21 days, while the Moderna vaccine requires two doses spread out between 28 days. DHHR reported that more than 2 percent of the state’s nearly 1.8 million residents have received both doses of the vaccines.

The state was able to administer 106.4 percent of first doses of the vaccines due to being able to squeeze out additional doses from the vials. While additional doses are not always guaranteed in the five-dose vials, the state supplies an additional syringe with each vial just in case.

“We’re getting more doses out of the vials than what they really anticipated,” Justice said. “Really and truly it’s working. We’re saving lives.”

Justice said more than 73,000 West Virginians aged 65 and older have been vaccinated against COVID-19 with either the first dose of the Pfizer of Moderna vaccine to date.

“How many people did we save their life,” Justice asked. “Whatever it may be, it’s great work by a lot of people who have put in a lot of licks and everything. That’s really, really good stuff.”

(Adams can be contacted at sadams@newsandsentinel.com)

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