Saved lives are a gift in West Virginia

What a truly wonderful Christmas present all involved in rushing the COVID-19 vaccine to nursing homes have given us! They have given the gift of life to some of our fellow West Virginians.

Are we going overboard? Judge for yourself:

Residents in long-term care facilities have been hit especially hard by the epidemic. Here in West Virginia, roughly one-third of the lives claimed by the disease have been in nursing homes. As we have pointed out previously, decisive steps taken by Gov. Jim Justice — no doubt with input from Dr. Clay Marsh and other experts — have saved lives in nursing homes.

Still, the virus found ways into many nursing homes. Last week, only 12 of the state’s 55 counties were not coping with long-term care center outbreaks.

News of an effective vaccine against COVID-19 has been the light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. But supplies of it are limited, at least for now.

Justice and other West Virginia officials decided that nursing home residents and employees should be among the first people to get the shots. Similar decisions were made in many other states.

But the Mountain State is receiving national attention for the speed with which the vaccine was gotten to nursing homes. One national news report cited West Virginia and Florida as the first states in the nation where nursing home residents were getting their shots.

That was made possible by the decision not to follow a template used in many other states, of relying on major pharmacy chains to administer the vaccine. Knowing many West Virginians rely on small, independent drug stores, our state officials worked through them, too.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands of people in the supply chain pitched in to rush vaccines to nursing homes.

Days matter. The COVID-19 death toll reported for Wednesday was 27 in our state. A significant number of them were in nursing homes.

No one can know how many lives were saved by the speed with which the life-saving vaccine got to nursing homes. But we do know some of our neighbors will be alive Christmas Day because of the action. So yes, we have been given a gift — and we are grateful beyond expression to all involved in giving it.


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