June Leffler Published

West Virginia’s COVID-19 Vaccination Rates Are Lower Than Officials Thought


State officials say West Virginia’s coronavirus vaccination rates might be lower than they originally thought.

As of Tuesday, state data show that 52 percent of all West Virginians are fully vaccinated. But that number could change in the following days.

Retired Maj. Gen Jim Hoyer says data the state receives from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention contractor has been inaccurate.

“They have been double-counting the numbers that they send to us related to the federal pharmacy program,” said Hoyer, who leads the state’s vaccine rollout.

Hoyer said this error has been happening since May.

West Virginia opted out of the federal pharmacy program under the Trump administration but joined in earlier this year. The program ships vaccine doses directly to retail pharmacies without much involvement with the state.

Gov. Jim Justice blamed the CDC for this error. Hoyer said his team, including those with the state Department of Health and Human Resources and data analysts with West Virginia University, will come up with the right numbers.

“I’ve got to be accountable because I lead the governor’s task force,” Hoyer said.

For months, national news outlets have reported lower vaccination rates for the Mountain State than most local and state media. These national outlets get their data directly from the CDC, while state and local media (including WVPB) more often report numbers offered by the state DHHR.

The New York Times and NPR report West Virginia has the lowest vaccination rate in the nation.

A review of the data will most likely reveal lower vaccination rates that officials had thought. The error has moved the goal post on the vaccine rollout, for better or worse, Justice said.

“There’s a lot of folks still out there in West Virginia that still haven’t been vaccinated,” Justice said. “Now I know we got to double down even more … there are a lot of people out there that we can still get to.”

State health officials say West Virginia is most likely experiencing its peak of the delta surge right now. That means cases will begin to dramatically fall in the coming weeks. Active case counts are down 48 percent from their peak over the past five days.

But hospitalizations and deaths will continue to rise for the time being. Hospitals are administering care at “crisis levels” throughout the state.