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Leading the way on vaccinations

More than 6 percent of West Virginia’s 1.8 million residents are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. That’s a number we continue to marvel over, particularly as other states — including those on our borders — struggle to get shots into arms.

What has led West Virginia to lead the nation in the vaccine rollout? Planning and a good dose of common sense, it appears. Gov. Jim Justice has proven himself to be an effective crisis leader, making the right calls on the vaccine rollout. He delegated the logistics of getting shots to clinics to the West Virginia National Guard, and allowed Dr. Clay Marsh and other health officials to guide all of us through the process.

But his biggest win was in recognizing the federal government’s plan to wait until nearly spring to vaccinate the most vulnerable population — those over age 65 — was flawed. With 92% of the state’s 2,000-plus deaths coming from those 60 and older, re-prioritizing the vaccine schedule to protect those most vulnerable first has quite literally saved lives.

While the state doesn’t keep records on the ages of those vaccinated, it’s safe to say of the 111,457 residents fully vaccinated, a growing percentage are aged 65 and older.

The same holds true of the 223,850 residents who have received at least a first dose of the vaccine.

What makes West Virginia’s effort to get 6.1 percent of the population fully vaccinated look even better is when you compare that number to our neighboring states:

• Pennsylvania, 2.8 percent

• Ohio, 2.8 percent

• Maryland, 2.8 percent

• Virginia, 2.6 percent

• Kentucky, 2.9 percent

The only state outpacing West Virginia is Alaska, with 6.2 percent of residents vaccinated.

It’s still been less than two months since the vaccine debuted, so much work remains to defeat COVID-19. We urge Justice, Marsh and others to continue leading the nation in protecting our residents.

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