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West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and others leading the state’s response to the ongoing pandemic received some of the first doses of Pfizer’s vaccine during a Monday evening live stream event.
Those getting the vaccine included state coronavirus czar Dr. Clay Marsh, Department of Health and Human Services Sec. Bill Crouch, state health officer Dr. Anyne Amjad and Maj. Gen. James Hoyer of the West Virginia National Guard.
“The last 10 months have been tough on a lot of people, especially those that we’ve lost — and all their loved ones, “ Justice said. “We can never have more compassion or should be saying more and more prayers for those we lost. It’s been tough, it’s really been tough. We’re going to get through this.”
The pandemic response team received the vaccine from Krista Capeheart, who serves as the director of professional and regulatory affairs at the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy and an associate professor at West Virginia University’s School of Pharmacy.
During the event, Justice said some doses went out earlier Monday at Thomas Memorial Hospital in South Charleston, where Dr. Kishore Challa was the first person in the state to receive the vaccine.
“Don’t be afraid of the vaccine, be afraid of the virus,” Challa said.
Officials with WVU Medicine — the largest healthcare provider in the state — have said they will begin inoculations Tuesday for high-priority employees.
“It’s not about delivering vaccines, it’s about vaccinating people,” said Marsh, before being injected with the first of two doses needed to complete the inoculation process.
A second shot of Pfizer’s vaccine is needed 21 days after the first. For another vaccine developed by Moderna — now awaiting federal approval by the Food and Drug Administration — a second shot is needed 28 days after the initial dose.
Marsh outlined the research and evaluation process that led to the vaccine’s approval.
“The people of West Virginia should feel safe that this is a very effective and a very safe vaccine,” Marsh said. “It has undergone very thorough evaluation by a number of scientific panels, including the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control.”
As the state’s top health expert in the Justice administration’s response to the pandemic, Marsh also attempted to dispel rumors that the vaccine causes sterility or other adverse effects.
As the livestreamed event came to a close, Justice urged the state’s elderly population to get tested if they show any symptoms at all.
“If you’re over 65 years of age, I don’t care what kind of shape you’re in. If you’re in bad, good, whatever it may be — and you have any symptom of a cold or anything bad — a headache, anything. I don’t care what it is, you’ve got to go get tested,” Justice said. “If we’re going to stop this, you’ve got to go get tested.”
The Associated Press reported that the White House reversed a plan Sunday to vaccinate top government officials while essential workers and nursing home patients await first doses.
President Donald Trump tweeted that he was not scheduled to take the vaccine but looked “forward to doing so at the appropriate time.”
Bill Lee, the 61-year-old Republican governor of Tennessee, recently said he will take the shot when it is “available to the folks in my population sector.” In Utah, Gov. Gary Herbert, 73, and his soon-to-be successor, have dispelled rumors that political leaders will receive vaccine favoritism.
It could be months before the general public has access to a vaccine, according to health experts in West Virginia.
The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.